The NFL’s new security chief comes straight from the nation’s capital

Cathy Lanier will be the NFL’s new vice president of security, the league announced Tuesday, ending a months-long search that began when Jeff Miller stepped down from the job in May. Lanier, 49, has been the police chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) in Washington, D.C., since 2007. Not that it should matter but her background as an officer, who rose from the rank of beat cop to lead one of the higher-profile forces in the country, is not one we’d expect to see in a leadership role in the NFL.

She was at the helm of a department that dealt with the local legalization of marijuana and actively pursued the use of body cameras for its officers when the issue was still raw after Ferguson, Missouri. There are various arguments about whether her tenure was successful locally, but as a mom who also once sued MPD for sexual harassment and won, this is about as progressive a hire as possible.

“We are excited to welcome to our team an individual of Cathy’s talent and extensive record of accomplishments,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday. “Cathy joins us with a well-deserved reputation of being a tremendous communicator, innovator and relationship builder.”

“This executive will also be the primary supervisor of investigative programs, as well as oversee event security (including the Super Bowl and international games), game integrity programs and department administration,” the NFL job description read at the time of its posting. “He/she will take the lead in assessing security issues within the league and assigning and/or identifying the correct resources as they arise.”

Which leads to an obvious question: Does Lanier plan to make the game-day experience safer? During her time in D.C., she added a more personal communicative touch to police work in neighborhoods used to viewing the cops as enemies. She routinely noted that more communication between law enforcement and residents made things safer, not less. Lanier loudly rejected zero-tolerance policing for minor offenses, as well.

All that to say, for casual fans of the NFL, the No. 1 criticism in the past 10 years about the league has been the stadium experience from a cost and a security standpoint. A light Googling in the days after an NFL weekend will net you at least a half-dozen videos of fights in the parking lot, in the stands and even in the bathrooms. Personally, it’s the reason why I stopped going to games a long time ago.

Goodell’s reputation hasn’t been great recently. When it comes to how he’s dealt with players and their suspensions — even before Deflategate bored us all to tears — he had work to do on his legacy. Recently, the league’s handling of what is eventually going to be a very difficult talk about what to do about the long-term effects of concussions hasn’t exactly inspired confidence, either.

But for the people still willing to pay outrageous parking prices for the pleasure of being able to swill beer in a stadium with 75,000 of their closest friends, Lanier is the closest thing you can get to an ally.

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