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Two Alexandria school resource officers face misconduct investigation

They have been placed on leave while police look into a ‘serious complaint,’ authorities say

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Two school resource officers who were recently brought back to work in Alexandria’s public high school are now on leave pending an investigation of a “serious complaint” of misconduct, Alexandria police said.

Police spokesman Marcel Bassett would not detail the nature of the complaint, saying in a statement that doing so could jeopardize “the integrity of the investigation.” The department “takes complaints regarding misconduct seriously and is working diligently to investigate this situation,” he said.

Bassett added that the investigation was in its early stages: “We’re looking at all aspects of this.”

One of the two officers declined to comment; the other did not immediately return a request for comment. The investigation stems from a recent report by a former student about alleged sexually inappropriate conversations that occurred during her time at the school, according to two people familiar with the inquiry but not authorized to speak about it on the record.

Both men had been working at Alexandria City High School for four years this June when the city council voted to stop funding the school resource officer program. The decision was controversial; school leaders had wanted to keep the officers. At the time, Principal Peter Balas said he had received only two complaints about the officers during their tenure at the high school, from parents who disliked the way criminal incidents involving their children were handled.

In October, after several incidents at the school involving guns and violence, council members reversed themselves and brought the two officers back through the end of the school year. Alexandria City Public Schools also staffs about 21 unarmed security officers around school buildings.

Mayor Justin Wilson (D) said the investigation would not change the discussion about school resource officers in Alexandria.

“We take any allegations against police officers extremely seriously,” Wilson said. “We have a robust process to investigate them and take the appropriate response, and that’s underway.”

After the positions were temporarily brought back through the end of the school year, the City Council is likely in early 2022 to weigh extending the program vs. switching to other school safety models. Wilson and council member Amy B. Jackson (D), who is expected to become vice mayor in 2022, voted twice to keep the officers in school hallways.

“The conversation about the positions was never about individuals. It was always about the substance of the service they provide and what supports we have in place for our kids,” Wilson said. “Whatever the conclusion of this investigation, it does not have a bearing on how we evaluate that need going forward.”

Still, parts of that conversation may change given the unusual amount of turnover on the seven-person City Council, which funds the school resource officer positions.

All three incoming council members — Sarah R. Bagley, Alyia Smith-Parker Gaskins and R. Kirk McPike — have publicly expressed opposition to maintaining the school resource officer program as it currently exists. Council member Canek Aguirre (D) also voted twice against keeping the program.

Hannah Natanson contributed to this report.