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Alexandria’s Interim Police Chief Raul Pedroso wants to take the ‘interim’ out of his title

Alexandria Interim Police Chief Raul Pedroso (via City of Alexandria)

Alexandria’s Interim Police Chief Raul Pedroso has been on the job a little more than a month, and tells ALXnow that he wants the permanent position.

Pedroso was hired as an assistant police chief last October, and took the reins of the Alexandria Police Department last month after the retirement of former Chief Don Hayes.

“I’m interested in being the chief of police for the City of Alexandria,” Pedroso said. “I’ve worked my whole career to get myself ready for a position and opportunity like this. But at the end of day, I’m here to work, and so I’m going to work today, I’m going to work tomorrow, I’m going to work every day as long as I’m in this position.”

While the city begins its planning for a national search to permanently fill the position, Pedroso says that he’s been directed by City Manager Jim Parajon to keep moving the department forward without limitations on his interim authority.

“The direction has been simple,” Pedroso said. “Do whatever that we need to do to keep the department moving forward.”

Pedroso has inherited a city experiencing a crime surge, with dramatic increases in gun-related incidents, as well as a department that suffered diversity and morale issues under his predecessor.

“To me, we’re in a great position here,” Pedroso said. “We have all the elements of what is a great organization to be a part of. You’ve got great men and women in the agency, you’ve got a proud tradition, which is good for a police department. You have a very supportive community, and a very supportive elected body and administration.”

Pedroso also said that he doesn’t envision making any major changes to the organizational structure of the department with three assistant police chiefs.

“The focus for me is delivering the best in service and making the greatest impact for the people that live here and visit here,” he said. “You’re gonna get caught if you come to Alexandria and commit crime.”

Pedroso was previously a major in the Coral Gables Police Department, where he worked his way up the ranks for 30 years. He speaks fluent Spanish, attended the FBI National Academy and has a master’s of science degree in criminal justice from Florida International University and a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Florida, according to his LinkedIn page.

Pedroso left Coral Gables for Alexandria because he was facing mandatory retirement, he said.

“I wanted to keep working,” he said. “I felt I had more to give, and so when I was about 18 months out is when I decided I’m going to start to really work hard at finding that next opportunity.”

A Florida native, he says he was inspired to pursue a career in law enforcement while working as a loss prevention officer as studied for a Bachelor’s degree in business at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

“My intent was to go into business,” Pedroso said.

But after helping a detective bust a sheriff’s deputy who was shoplifting and making fraudulent refunds in uniform, Pedroso went on a police ride-along and was hooked.

“I went on that ride along and it changed my life,” he said. “I knew what I wanted to do and I went full-force.”

Former Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne said that Parajon made a good decision promoting Pedroso.

“I have spent  time getting to know Chief Pedroso over the last four months,” Lawhorne said. “I am impressed by what I have heard and seen so far. He is taking measures to address the crime problem, improving morale, and engaging the community. I trust his leadership abilities, decision making, and vision.”

Pedroso describes his leadership style as “authentic.”

“I am who I am,” he said. “The person who is talking with you now is the person that’s going to talk in a meeting with our command staff. It’s who’s going to be out there with their officers on the street, or with the community or at home. I’m real.”

Pedroso continued, “My style is I am empathetic. I understand. I did this job for a long time. I don’t forget where I came from. I don’t forget what it is to be a police officer riding a beat in a police car at three o’clock in the morning and the challenges that come with that job. It’s a very difficult job. It’s incredibly rewarding, but comes with a lot of challenges. I’ve never forgotten that.”

Pedroso says his priorities are ensuring proper resources and training for officers, as well as staying connected with the community.

“We don’t have all the answers in here,” he said. “The answers are all around us. By having those interactions, by building that trust, developing that relationship, we’re getting a lot of great ideas when it comes to how we should be out there policing our community.”

Pedroso says that he hasn’t been keeping track of the hours he’s putting in as interim chief.

“There are a lot of hours and they’re long hours, but that’s okay,” he said. “This opportunity is one that I don’t take lightly, and it’s one that for every minute that I am in this position, or any position involved with leadership and public safety, I’m gonna give it my all.”

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