WASHINGTON (AP) Washington police chief Cathy Lanier is stepping down to become head of security for the National Football League.

The police department announced Lanier's departure Tuesday on Twitter. Lanier said in a letter to the department's 3,700 officers that she is taking the job at the NFL.

The 49-year-old Lanier was the first woman to lead the Metropolitan Police Department. One of the nation's longest-serving and most popular big-city police chiefs, she served as chief for nine-and-a-half years under three mayoral administrations. Lanier oversaw reductions in crime as the nation's capital experienced an influx of wealth that transformed once-troubled neighborhoods.

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Lanier was a high school dropout and teenage mother who joined the department as a patrol officer. Her rise through the ranks became an inspiration to many.