Prince William County officials are interviewing current and former police department officials about an allegation of a racial slur.
Meanwhile, the county’s Racial and Social Justice Commission held another argument-filled meeting as it examines equity in Prince William’s government.
During the commission’s meeting July 15, County Executive Chris Martino provided an update on the investigation into a claim by the Rev. Cozy Bailey, head of the local NAACP, that a senior police official used a racial slur to refer to him several years ago.
On May 24, Bailey told the commission’s policing subcommittee that he was invited by then-Police Chief Barry Banard to address a leadership seminar.
Bailey said he entered a room with about 40 people and officers were chatting, but, “All that chatter ceased when the chief introduced me as the president of the NAACP.”
“And as I walked out – even though the chief invited me to stay, it was too cold in there for me – what I heard was, ‘Glad that n-word is done,’” Bailey said.
The investigation is being handled by the county’s Human Resources Department. Martino said the department is still gathering background information and is scheduling interviews with 35 active and 13 inactive police employees. The investigation is expected to take 60 to 90 days. He said any public information coming from it will be shared with the commission.
The commission, created by the Board of County Supervisors in October, is tasked with delivering a report that examines “the state of racial and social justice for people of color” in the county and making recommendations to the county government. Its initial focus is on policing, the provision of government services and public education.
An update on the investigation was one of four items added to the agenda by Coles District Commissioner Charles Haddow. The meeting stretched on after the commission spent about an hour debating Robert’s Rules of Order around one of Haddow’s agenda items.
Haddow, one of the most outspoken commissioners, has become somewhat of a lightning rod on the panel as its full meetings have been marked with his objections, hangups and prolonged debates on numerous procedural matters. He has sparred with other members who say he cuts them off or speaks over them, and he engages in frequent heated debates on procedure with Raul Torres, executive director of the Office of Human Rights.
One such argument occurred during the July 15 meeting when Torres said Haddow needed to make a motion to discuss one of the topics he added to the agenda. Haddow slammed a copy of Robert’s Rules of Order on the dais and implored Torres to defend his interpretation of the procedures.
Haddow has said he believes it’s important to follow proper procedure in conducting public business. He has said the three panelists appointed by Republican members of the Board of Supervisors are treated differently than other commissioners, even pointing out that they are all sitting on one side of the dais together.
“There is a completely discriminatory procedure when I recommend something,” Haddow said. “I was appointed as a citizen and I’m treated as a Republican.”
Commissioner Jahanzeb Akbar (At-Large) said the seating arrangement was alphabetical order and those commissioners’ names just fell together.
Haddow also sparred with School Board member Loree Williams of the Woodbridge District during the meeting as he repeated a debunked claim from earlier this year that the Virginia Department of Education planned to eliminate accelerated math classes prior to 11th grade.
The discussion was part of a larger debate over the meaning of equitable outcomes. Maria Burgos, the county’s equity inclusion officer, said it means removing all barriers to success. She stressed that it does not mean the same as a guaranteed outcome, where everyone will by default succeed.
“Equitable outcome is built on everything that you put in place to ensure that inequity is not impacting the outcome,” she said. “Equity is not where you turn out. It’s where you enter.”