Defining Meth's Impact

MPD chief's comments regarding crystal meth prompt blowback

Comments attributed to Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier regarding crystal methamphetamine use in the District resulted in a minor skirmish last week with prominent gay advocates in the fight against meth.

Advocates took issue with Lanier for what they perceived as a lack of awareness regarding the gay community’s fight against meth abuse and addiction in relation to what she said during a Jan. 6 “Ask the Chief” radio interview hosted by WTOP.

According to a transcript of the interview, posted on WTOP’s site, when speaking about a Dec. 15 methamphetamine bust in which nine people were indicted on federal charges of conspiring to sell large quantities of crystal methamphetamine in D.C., Lanier stated: “Crystal meth has never established itself in the D.C. community. This was a Mexican cartel that sought to establish distribution in D.C.” 

Talking to Metro Weekly on Jan. 6, Lanier said she was misunderstood.

“I apologize if anybody mistook what I was saying,” she said, “and I will clear that up. When I do those shows [WTOP host] Mark Segraves is constantly on me to talk in sound bites and that’s very hard to do.

“My point was not that we’ve never had crystal meth here, [or that] we’ve never seen it. My point was this [cartel] would have had a huge impact on Washington, D.C.”

According to Lanier, the Drug Enforcement Administration confirmed to her that the Dec. 15 bust by MPD was the largest seizure of crystal meth within 100 miles of Washington.

“It’s kind of hard to get all of that in a sound bite on live radio,” she said.

Having worked as commanding officer in the narcotics branch of MPD, Lanier says she is “fully aware” of the meth problem in D.C. and the communities in which it has impacted.

“There’s a lot of other drugs as well that have a presence throughout our communities here in Washington that don’t get a lot of attention,” Lanier said. “But in this case my point was very specifically, when you’ve got a Mexican cartel trying to set up a major distribution point, that’s something we have not seen here before and we don’t want to see.”

Still, David Mariner, executive director of The Center, the area’s LGBT community center, which provides the Crystal Meth Working Group (CMWG), does not find comfort in Lanier’s explanation. Last week, immediately after reading Lanier’s comments, Mariner released a statement calling her “dead wrong” and going into detail about meth addiction in D.C.’s gay community.

Lanier’s clarification, however, has not completely assuaged Mariner’s concerns.

“I understand the larger point that she was trying to make,” he says, “I still think that it was a very unfortunate comment.

“It completely sends the wrong message about crystal meth use in D.C. I also think that it hit some raw nerves because there was a time when we had such a good relationship with [MPD’s] Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, specifically on this issue. We don’t have that relationship anymore.”

The Center, 1318 U St. NW, hosts a facilitated discussion regarding partners of crystal meth addicts at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 18. For more information call 202-682-2245.