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Alexandria’s police department has diversity issues, some APD personnel say

Alexandria Police at the annual wreath laying ceremony for fallen officers on May 10, 2021. (Staff photo by James Cullum)

Despite previous commitments to diversity, including recruitment efforts and leadership from a Black chief of police, the Alexandria Police Department is contending with diversity issues.

Officers tell ALXnow a reorganization that occurred after Chief Don Hayes stepped into his leadership role in 2021 rewarded close connections and disregarded officers of color and civilian staff, which they say is a sign that Hayes does not want to make waves.

Now, most of APD’s leadership remains white and officers of color say they are being passed over.

“The way it’s set up now, the department’s leadership will be completely white for 20 years,” said an APD employee who spoke anonymously. “[The chief’s] actions always seem to have an adverse effect on employees of color.”

The department’s leadership of sergeant through captain is mostly white, with people of color making up a relatively small percentage. APD has no non-white captains or detectives, and only 10 sergeants of color out of 38 sergeant positions, according to a staffing directory provided by APD.

The two highest-ranking Black women in the department are sergeants, per the directory. There are no Asian officers above the rank of sergeant, and there is only one Hispanic lieutenant.

Alexandria Police Chief Don Hayes in his office (staff photo by James Cullum)

Some officers have tried many avenues for addressing this, including ethics complaints, meetings with Hayes and possibly unionizing, but have not gotten anywhere, fearing retaliation.

“I have thought about leaving,” a APD employee said. “Why should I go for a promotion? I want to get my money and I just want to go home and be left alone when I’m off the clock.”

ALXnow interviewed nine employees who spoke under the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation. Those employees alleged that recent departmental actions aren’t simply an oversight, but instead a concentrated effort against minorities. Hayes declined to be interviewed on diversity and his restructuring over the course of the last two months by ALXnow.

“There are great people, employees, officers and civilian staff that work at APD,” an employee said. “But there are also some very rotten ones. And unfortunately, some of those rotten ones work in the middle management and leadership. And they have an impact on the morale and the culture of the organization.”

“Unfortunately, unless someone ever notices it, it’s just gonna be a slippery slope,” the employee continued. “If they’re all there, the turnover is going to be high.”

Staff also feel like Hayes could have been a mentor, but is alienating them and not often present due to his other duties as a pastor. Since last summer, Hayes has been interim pastor at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Arlington.

The fallout from a lack of diversity in middle management is something that people who specialize in diversity initiatives say is a key hindrance to changing the status quo.

A staff breakdown by race and sex of the department’s uniformed officers is below. The staffing directory provided to ALXnow underscores the charge of dwindling diversity in higher-ranked positions.

  • Assistant Chief of Police – One white male, one Black male
  • Captains – Six white males, two white females
  • Lieutenants – Nine white males, one white females, two Black males, one Hispanic male
  • Detectives –  21 white males, four white females
  • Sergeants – 26 white males, two white females, six Black males, two Black females, two Hispanic males
  • Officers – 88 white males and 30 white females, 34 Black males and 10 Black females, 25 Hispanic males and seven Hispanic females, 10 Asian males and two Asian females

Hayes, a 42-year veteran of the force, was named acting chief after former Chief Michael Brown resigned in April 2021. City Manager Jim Parajon promoted Hayes to chief in June 2022 — after he’d been acting chief for a little more than a year.

Brown, who was chief from 2017 to 2021, furthered a 21st century policing plan to improve diversity and accountability within the department. He restructured APD with Hayes as his assistant chief and civilian Michelle McCarty as assistant director commanding the administrative services bureau, which includes human resources, recruitment and training.

According to that 21st century policing plan:

Law enforcement agencies should strive to create a workforce that contains a broad range of diversity including race, gender, language, life experience, and cultural background to improve understanding and effectiveness in dealing with all communities. APD has revised its recruiting program to focus on improving the demographic representation of its workforce. This will be a continuing effort and APD will report on its progress as currently required to external city commissions.

Details of the department’s latest reorganization have not been made public but multiple sources say McCarty, a Black woman, was demoted last September and replaced by a white female captain.

McCarty became the division director of facilities, fleet and property management, per her LinkedIn profile and confirmed by multiple sources. Her previous responsibility of training and recruiting from APD’s civilian-led human resources department was shifted to white uniformed officers, sources say.

After McCarty’s transfer, a national search was conducted to replace the civilian assistant director with a sworn officer. Under Hayes, the department now has a white male acting-assistant police chief, Dennis Andreas, for investigations and a Black assistant police chief, Easton McDonald, who was hired in January.

Hayes also had to fill two captain vacancies, filling one with a white acting-captain who was promoted after serving in the position for a year. The other vacant captain’s position reportedly created controversy, sources say.

In March 2022, multiple officers within the department say a Black lieutenant leading the department’s training and recruitment efforts was transferred to another post midway through a three-year detail, which they interpreted as a punitive measure.

They say Hayes then replaced the Black lieutenant with a white male lieutenant and attempted to get the latter promoted to acting captain to fill the remaining vacancy.

The Black lieutenant who was transferred was at the top of the promotion list. The move prompted a complaint with the City Attorney’s office and Hayes later reversed his decision.

“The whole department erupted,” an APD officer told ALXnow. “Quietly, [Hayes] rescinded that acting captain to lieutenant.”

In December 2022, Hayes filled the vacant captain’s position with a different white lieutenant who was at the bottom of a second promotional tier — Category I being the highest, followed by Category II, and then Category III — bypassing a number of other lieutenants, including the Black lieutenant who was transferred from training and recruitment, APD employees told ALXnow.

“I feel like [a Black officer] was placed in a position where he couldn’t advance because [of] this narrative that the only reason he would be promoted is because he’s Black,” an APD officer said “That’s where it started… Chief Hayes backpedals a lot, and so in order to correct it and to make his friends not mad with him anymore, I felt like he had to create a situation where [the Black officer] would not be eligible to be promoted.”

The officer said past chiefs have also skipped candidates in Category I for candidates in Category II due to “extenuating issues,” such as being under investigation, not performing well or poor timing.

“But these are power moves to show people he’s the boss, and he’s doing more damage than good,” the officer said.

Employees in the department have filed multiple U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints against Hayes and a complaint was also filed with the City Attorney, according to documents sent to ALXnow.

“The stuff that he’s doing to us was done to him earlier in his career,” said an APD employee. “It’s so frustrating and sad. We are so disappointed. Just because you are in Category I doesn’t mean you are going to get promoted.”

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