D.C. Housing Authority police officers patrol public housing properties. Credit: Darrow Montgomery

By his own account, D.C. Housing Authority Police Department Sgt. Darnell Douglass is an asshole, multiple subordinate officers say. And, he tells those officers, he likes being an asshole. If they don’t like the way he treats them, they can try to take it up with his bosses. But officers say Douglass’ superiors have allowed his assholish behavior to continue unchecked.

“He says, ‘You guys can file all the complaints you want. You should know by now nothing is going to happen,’” Officer Efosa Enadeghe says Douglass often boasts.

Douglass, who has spent 22 years with DCHAPD, has terrorized, harassed, and bullied officers working under him for years, several Housing Authority police officers tell Loose Lips. For years they’ve reported Douglass’ behavior to DCHA Police Chief Joel Maupin and his command staff. They’ve filed grievances with the union. Enadeghe, who was elected union vice president in March, says he and other officers met with DCHAPD brass several times, but Douglass remains in his position. DCHAPD functions as an office within the Housing Authority, and Maupin answers to DCHA’s executive director, Brenda Donald.

LL emailed Maupin on Friday, Sept. 3, requesting an interview and followed up with a more detailed list of accusations on Sept. 5. Maupin never replied. Instead, on Sept. 7, DCHA spokesperson Tony Robinson sent LL the following statement:

“The District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA) does not publicly comment on internal employee relations or Human Resource matters. The Agency affirms its commitment to all provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the D.C. Human Rights Act of 1977 as both are amended, and all other employment related law, statutes, and regulations. The DCHA takes all claims of discrimination and/or harassment seriously, takes measures to ensure that work place related claims are properly reviewed, and that appropriate measures are taken.”

Later that same evening, Donald, who took over the agency in June and was recently awarded a two-year contract, emailed the housing authority’s board of commissioners
to inform them of LL’s request.

“When I was made aware of the allegations, I instructed Chief Maupin and HR Interim Director Dexter Starkes to initiate an investigation and take appropriate actions,” Donald wrote in the email, which was shared with LL.

It’s unclear exactly what Douglass is under investigation for and when that investigation began. Asked whether Douglass has ever faced disciplinary action and whether DCHA could refute any of the specific accusations in LL’s email, Robinson said the agency “has no further comment.”

That Douglass is under investigation now means nothing to Enadeghe.

“They’re complicit,” Enadeghe says of Maupin and and the department’s leadership. “They’re part of the problem. Even if they get rid of Douglass, the chief is the leader of the police department. Everything falls on him.”

DCHAPD was established in 1995 to patrol public housing properties. It’s made up of sworn officers, special police officers (who receive less training than sworn officers but carry guns and have the power to arrest people at public housing properties), and security officers. Maupin, a retired Metropolitan Police Department commander, has led the department since 2012.

Four current officers, including Enadeghe, and one former officer, spoke with LL on the record about Douglass’ abusive behavior and the culture that they say Maupin allows to continue. A handful of other current and former DCHAPD officers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, corroborated much of what their fellow cops said. Their willingness to speak publicly while working in a profession notorious for protecting its own speaks to the level of abuse they say they’ve endured and their lack of belief that DCHAPD leaders will address it.

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It’s not as if Maupin can claim that he is oblivious to Douglass’ behavior.

In 2015, Douglass was involved in a domestic violence incident in Prince George’s County. According to court records, Douglass yelled at his romantic partner and pointed his gun at her during an argument. A Prince George’s County District Court judge barred Douglass from contacting the woman and required him to surrender all firearms. Douglass was also required to “participate in domestic violence counseling threw [sic] his employer,” according to the protective order that remained in effect until November 2016.

In addition to the Prince George’s County records, LL obtained four grievances that the Fraternal Order of Police D.C. Housing Authority Labor Committee sent to Maupin in 2018.

In one grievance, the FOP requests Douglass attend counseling and/or anger management sessions, receive training “on how to conduct himself in a professional manner,” and apologize to the officer. In another grievance, the FOP concludes, “It is clear, Sgt. Douglass lacks the necessary temperament to lead by example and conduct himself in a calm, rational and respectable manner when dealing with opposition, especially when it involves members of the opposite sex.” The FOP “finds his continued unacceptable behavior towards its members deplorable.” In a third grievance, the FOP describes Douglass’s behavior as “unjust, vindictive and misogynistic in nature.”

When Enadeghe took over as union vice president six months ago, he was immediately bombarded with reports of Douglass’ abusive behavior. Officers called Enadeghe in tears and told him they used sick days to avoid working with Douglass. Many told Enadeghe they wanted to quit. The job that, for some, pays as little as $43,000 per year isn’t worth the abuse.

In an interview with LL, former DCHA security officer Amanda Horn describes how Douglass harassed her. Horn says Douglass had her transferred from a post at a housing property to the office at DCHA headquarters on North Capitol Street NE where he worked.

Douglass would tell Horn “I’ll have you rubbing my feet,” and “I’ll have you in the kitchen cooking my food,” Horn recalls. She says she reported his comments to human resources, and was then transferred away from Douglass and out from under his supervision.

“That’s when the bullying started,” she says. Horn says Douglass would repeatedly show up where she was assigned to work and told her that he would never get in trouble because he knows the policy handbook back and forth. Horn reported Douglass’ continued actions to her supervisor Lt. Willie Street. But, she says, nothing was done, and she resigned.

Another female officer tells LL that Street texted her a picture of his penis while he was
on duty. The officer, who asked not to be identified by name, says she reported the incident to Maupin and Deputy Chief George Dixon. She believes DCHAPD investigated the incident, but is not aware of any disciplinary action that Street faced. He is still employed with the agency, and he did not respond to an email seeking comment.

“Those guys shouldn’t be working here,” Enadeghe says. “They shouldn’t be police officers. They’re just not fit to be in law enforcement.”

Enadeghe says he also tried bringing his concerns about Douglass to Lt. Eugene Bentley, another supervisor. Asked what DCHAPD was going to do about the stack of complaints, Bentley told Enadeghe, “I like Douglass,” and “Doug is Doug. He’s not going to change,” Enadeghe says.

According to Enadeghe, Bentley added: “I know you’re the vice president of the union now. I hope you’re not going to start something.” Bentley did not reply to an email
seeking comment.

By July, Enadeghe reached his breaking point. He emailed Maupin and members of the command staff to report that he had become a target of harassment after pressing them to address complaints about Douglass’ behavior. He wrote in the email that he intended to resign. Maupin never responded, Enadeghe says. Instead, Deputy Chief Dixon instructed Enadeghe to sign the resignation letter to make it official and did not address the accusations of harassment, says Enadeghe, who has not officially resigned.

Enadeghe then sent an email to the entire department, as well as Donald, laying out the hostile work environment created by Douglass and DCHAPD supervisors. He has not received a response from Maupin.

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Officers Juanita Jones, Dominic Frazier, and Davá Duncan say they each have been targets of Douglass’ abuse.

Jones, who has worked as a special police officer for the Housing Authority since November 2020, says Douglass constantly degrades and humiliates her for her weight. During roll call meetings, where she is often the only woman or one of two women, he has said, “If you’re a female, this job might not be for you” and “You’re probably not cut out for this job,” Jones recalls.

On more than one occasion, Jones says she has asked Douglass, her direct supervisor, questions about how to properly do her job. Rather than providing answers, Douglass has told her to “go ask your classmates” (she assumes he is referring to her fellow officers), shoos her away with his hand, or simply stares at her without saying anything until she walks away.

“Harassment, belittlement, unbecoming behavior,” Jones says. “He’s manipulative. It’s constant. All the time.”

Jones says she feels like she’s going to throw up before roll call meetings, and she has trouble sleeping on nights before going into work. But she can’t afford to quit.

Jones says she grew up in the Barry Farm public housing complex, which is now almost completely demolished. Around age 3 or 4 she was taken from her mom, who struggled with drug addiction, and was placed at St. Ann’s Center for Children, Youth and Families.

From about 2013 to 2015, she was homeless while working two jobs and trying to earn a college degree. During that time, she lived out of her car or slept behind a supermarket across from the fast food restaurant where she worked.

“It was rough,” she says. “People steal from you. Sometimes I’d be awake for 22 hours.”

She dropped out of school to get a private security license and worked for more than six years before landing the job at the Housing Authority. Jones wanted the stability and benefits that come with a government job, and the union covers her tuition at an online community college. If she loses her job or quits, her dream of earning a college degree disappears.

Douglass’ demeanor is different around Jones, who is gay and describes herself as a “butch stud,” than it is around women who appear more feminine, she says. That’s a dynamic that Frazier has witnessed as well.

“He has his favorites, the ones he lets do whatever he wants to see if he can get a date,” Frazier says. “And then when they deny him, that’s when he starts to harass them.”

Frazier has worked as a special police officer for the past six years and worked with Douglass while he was a patrol officer. He and several other officers describe Douglass as an overly aggressive patrol officer who, as a sergeant, encourages similar tactics.

“He was rude to people, just disrespectful,” Frazier says. “That’s what he does: comes on the scene and bullies people, wants to take over and show them who’s boss.”

All three officers say they’ve listened to Douglass boast during roll call meetings about how he “got away with a lot of stuff” as an officer. The three officers, each of whom spoke with LL separately, say some officers take cues from Douglass’ descriptions of abusive tactics and make the job unsafe by creating unnecessarily hostile situations.

“He’s creating a culture of hotheads just like him,” Jones says. “Where officers brag about the number of people they arrest.”

The three of them point to one officer in particular whose aggressive behavior, they say, mirrors that of Douglass. That officer refers to residents as “roaches,” and “those people,” and “good-for-nothings,” Duncan says.

“He talks a lot about Black people. N—r this and n—r that,” Frazier says of the officer. “He refers to the residents as n—rs. Calls them crackheads. If he sees anybody Black, he goes right up and grabs them.”

For Duncan, the culture that Maupin and other supervisors have established means the sexual harassment she receives goes unreported. She says an officer once called her a “he/she dyke.” When she reported the offensive comment to a supervisor, she expected to go through an official process. Instead, the supervisor said he didn’t believe her, Duncan says.

Duncan says another officer, Harold Yeager, once pulled her close to him while they were on duty and asked her to have sex. When she said no, he started describing what
his penis looked like, she says.

Duncan didn’t report the incident because she didn’t trust her supervisors to take any action.

“We’re in an environment where we can’t even speak up because we get called liars or
flirty with them,” she says.

Like Jones, Duncan feels stuck.

“I was so excited to work for the Housing Authority, and when I got here, this is the worst place I’ve ever been,” she says. “But I have health insurance [and] sick leave. I have to put up with sexual advances and officers being disrespectful and supervisors not doing anything about it because I need my job.”