The Alexandria Police Department has recently undergone a transformation.
Police Chief Mike Brown’s reorganization of the department went into effect on March 30, and his plan consolidates the number of divisions/bureaus from four to three and takes away and renames the Deputy Chief of Police positions from the ranks. The second-in-command positions are now a civilian assistant director and two Assistant Chiefs of Police.
The move, which was approved by City Manager Mark Jinks and City Attorney Jim Banks, results in the elimination of the Operations Support bureau. Additionally, the former Deputy Chiefs of Police who chose to remain at the department were reduced in rank to captains, while their previous salaries and benefits remained frozen and they were encouraged to apply for two of the three open positions.
The department previously had four bureaus — Field Operations, Investigations, Operations Support and Administrative Services. The APD now consists of the Field Operations, Investigations and Administrative Services bureaus, the latter of which will be led by a non-sworn assistant director with a salary between $91,000 to $162,000 annually. The other two Assistants to the Chief of Police will be captains with an annual salary ranging from $92,300 to $167,300.
Brown, who was hired in January 2017, said he was influenced to reorganize the department after reading the 2016 APD staffing study by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
“One of the things that they noted is that there seems to be an inordinate amount of chiefs in the department. They suggested that it be examined further at some point,” Brown said. “There were also problematic things that were not related to the performance of the deputy chiefs, but related to the structured stay-in-your-lane silo kind of approach that we saw on an operational basis. And in some cases it wasn’t efficient and oftentimes resulted in things stalling and decisions not being made, and as a result of that I started looking at where do the functions best align.”
Deputy Chief Dave Huchler, the former head of the Investigations Bureau and briefly the interim chief after the retirement of Chief Earl Cook in September, recently took a job as the Chief of Police of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Field Operations bureau commander Shahram Ward has been reduced in rank to captain and is currently an IACP Visiting Law Enforcement Fellow. Former Patrol Support Division Commander Chris Wemple III chose to remain at the department and is now a captain.
Deputy Chief Diane Gittens, a 29-year APD veteran who led the Administrative Services bureau for four years, chose to retire effective April 1 instead of taking a demotion. Gittins, who has a Master’s Degree in public administration from George Mason University, is the former commander of the Traffic, Parking and Special Events Unit and was one of the first women in the history of the APD to attain the rank of Deputy Chief.
Brown said the officers were not fired from their jobs.
“A lot of folks have assumed that this has to do with the performance of the deputy chiefs. It doesn’t. It’s not a performance-based thing,” he said. “I’m just trying to do what I can for this department and for the folks inside, and whoever comes in behind me will probably look at the same kind of thing and make changes as they see fit to.”
Gittens’ wife, Suzanne Petroni, sent out a series of angry tweets after Brown released his plan. She tweeted to Mayor Allison Silberberg and other city leaders messages that Brown’s rationale for demoting four the four deputy chiefs is not outlined in the IACP report. Gittens would not comment in this article.
“Hey @A_Silberberg @chapman4council @TimLovain @paulSmedberg @Dwiddlededee @justindotnet, please ask @AlexandriaVAGov City Mgr where in the IACP report they recommended APD reorg into 3 bureaus. This was the sole rationale he and Chief Brown gave for the deputy demotions,” Petroni tweeted on April 9.
Gittens’ defacto replacement will be the yet-to-be-named assistant director in charge of the revamped Administrative Services bureau.
“The disciplines that are covered in the Administrative Services bureau are very complex,” Brown said. “Human Resources is an issue under itself. You have to have a really good understanding of Title VII and all those issues that pertain to it, IT support — that you don’t generally get growing up in the law enforcement community.
In a March 5 email to APD staff, Brown laid out his plan, which initially said that “the Assistant Chief and Assistant Director positions will be appointed and serve at the pleasure of the Chief of Police.”
That particular stipulation was later found to be in violation of Virginia law, and was later amended after consulting with the city manager and city attorney. The assistant chief and assistant director jobs are now civil service positions, which means that a potential dismissal for performance-related issues will go through an administrative process rather than at the discretion of the chief.
“The chief approached us about reorganizing,” Jinks said. “I encourage every department head when we hire them in their first year or so to look around and make the organization look better. And he came forward with a plan. It’s a good plan, seemed reasonable and we went through the details, and one of the things that we changed when we got to the implementation part is in regards to the at-will nature of the assistant chief positions.”
Specifically, the Field Operations division, which once consisted of patrol, traffic safety, the K9 unit and community outreach has expanded to also includes school resource officers, school crossing guards, tactical training and response and parking enforcement. The former Investigations division, which was made up of criminal investigations, crime scene investigations and youth services and intervention, has added intelligence to its responsibilities. The former Operations Support division has been eliminated and the Administrative Services division is largely the same, focusing on human resources, training, technology and systems operations, data analysis, facilities and security, property and evidence and planning and accreditation.
Banks said that Brown’s plan was well thought out.
“I think that, ultimately, when he consulted with me, we advised him that the new assistant chiefs would be treated consistent with the number two level of all departments and therefore they would be able to go through the witness process, etcetera, so they would be subject to retention, evaluation and termination just like everybody else in every other number two level,” Banks said. “So, ultimately that applies to him and that is what he is now implementing. I’ve done lots of reorganizations, and I will tell you that the product, when it came to me, was among the best I’ve ever seen, frankly.”
Brown said that he loves the APD and has no plans on leaving any time soon.
“I’m not going anywhere. My plan is to stay here,” he said. “I’ve come to love this department as I’ve come to know the people in it. I love this city and my wife and I enjoy being a part of the city. So, we don’t plan on going anywhere, but you always want to leave a foundation for the next person coming along, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon, God willing.”