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For several weeks last summer, D.C. Housing Authority police officer Dylan Floyd and special police officer-in-training Tracey Marbury butted heads. Floyd, who helped train Marbury in the field, says she didn’t take instruction well. Marbury has said in public records that Floyd was passive-aggressive.
The two went through mediation after an incident in which Marbury allegedly threatened Floyd, according to court records, but issues between the two remained and supervisors continued to pair them together. Tensions boiled over on Aug. 13 in the women’s locker room at DCHA’s old headquarters on North Capitol Street NE.
Floyd had been helping Marbury organize her arrest reports in preparation for the end of her field training. Both were growing frustrated with each other, and when Floyd went to the locker room to change and go home, Marbury followed her.
In Floyd’s telling, Marbury confronted her in a “hostile and very aggressive manner.” Marbury said in a subsequent court proceeding that Floyd had been “talking to her in a passive-aggressive manner,” and she went to “ask her if everything was ok.” Marbury did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
“What’s your problem?” Marbury asked, according to Floyd.
“It’s over,” Floyd says she responded. “Let it go.”
The two went back and forth, cursing at each other until, according to Floyd, Marbury said, “I’ll fucking kill you.” Floyd responded: “Threaten me again and watch what’s going to happen,” according to court testimony from Marbury, who has denied threatening Floyd.
Floyd says she then took out her handcuffs and grabbed Marbury’s wrist to place her under arrest for assault. Marbury grabbed Floyd’s throat, and Floyd punched Marbury in the face, according to testimony given later in court.
It took two other officers to separate them, and shortly afterward, Floyd says, Sgt. Darnell Douglass sent the two of them home without initiating an investigation, despite Floyd’s insistence. Floyd says she had no confidence that Douglass or DCHAPD command staff would investigate the altercation after she’d observed supervisors previously sweep misconduct in the department under the rug. So the next day, she reported the incident to an MPD detective, and the day after that she petitioned for a temporary restraining order in D.C. Superior Court.
Only then, on Aug. 16, did DCHAPD revoke Floyd’s police powers; four months later she was fired. Marbury, meanwhile, is still working for DCHAPD, according to an agency spokesperson. Floyd believes her supervisors retaliated against her for reporting the incident outside the agency.
“I didn’t trust them to do the right thing because I’ve seen them do the wrong thing multiple times,” Floyd says. “I went and told MPD because they didn’t do their job, and I feel like this is retaliation and they’re doing this to take it out on me.”
DCHA denied City Paper’s request for an interview with Police Chief Joel Maupin. Instead, Chief Operating Officer Rachel Molly Joseph provided an emailed statement from Executive Director Brenda Donald. It reads in part:
“With over 100 employees in the Office of Public Safety, it is not unusual to have personnel disputes or disagreements from time to time. Since Director Donald’s tenure began, the agency conducted an external evaluation of specific concerns raised by staff, and we have addressed the recommendations presented, including training and equipment needs. Additionally, we are currently exploring ways to improve compensation for members of the rank and file in order to build morale.”
In response to a follow-up email, Joseph refused to provide details of the external review and its recommendations, calling it a personnel matter. Joseph also would not answer questions about the circumstances around Floyd’s termination.
DCHA is one of only five public housing authorities across the country that has its own police force, according to HUD spokesperson Shantae Goodloe.
More than half of the DCHAPD’s force is made up of “special police officers,” like Marbury, who receive fewer hours of training than sworn officers, but are given a gun, a badge, and the authority to arrest people on DCHA’s properties. As of February 2022, DCHAPD had 21 sworn officers (with budget authorization to hire 11 more) compared to 39 SPOs (with authorization to hire seven more), according to the agency’s responses to the D.C. Council’s oversight questions.
Floyd’s mistrust of her DCHAPD supervisors, and her allegations of retaliation, follow similar reports from current and former housing authority officers. City Paper previously reported on a host of allegations against Sgt. Douglass for bullying and sexual harassment. DCHAPD command staff failed to act on those complaints, according to several officers, until City Paper published the allegations.
Floyd says she was interviewed by an attorney as part of DCHA’s investigation into Douglass’ behavior even though she hadn’t filed any complaints against him. But some of his accusers were not interviewed, according to those officers.
Now Douglass is in charge of a specialized team of officers, on which Floyd and Marbury worked together. In an email, Joseph denies that DCHAPD has specialized units, but DCHAPD has previously acknowledged the existence of its “High Impact Team.” Floyd and other officers tell City Paper that the unit was modeled after MPD’s Crime Suppression Teams, and their primary responsibility was searching for drugs and guns in and around certain properties, rather than solely responding to dispatch calls.
Although Floyd says Douglass typically supported her, she recalls another instance where she says he shamed her for seeking mental health treatment.
“Basically, he said, ‘You shouldn’t have been seeing a therapist,’ and ‘You’re weak for that,’” Floyd says. “It’s a big stigma in law enforcement, but I was within my right [to seek treatment], and I don’t believe in feeding into stigmas.”
Floyd says she didn’t want to go public with these details, but she felt she had no choice. She wrote letters to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees DCHA, to no effect. “I’m at my wits end,” she says. “Who holds us accountable?”
At-Large Councilmember Christina Henderson has previously questioned whether DCHA even needs its own police department. Notwithstanding specific allegations against individual DCHAPD officials, Henderson says it’s worth reconsidering whether the agency should continue to fund a relatively small force to police D.C.’s lowest income residents that was created during the tough-on-crime era in the mid-1990s. DCHAPD’s budget has fluctuated between about $8 million and $10 million since fiscal year 2015, according to budget documents City Paper obtained via the Freedom of Information Act. In fiscal year 2022, DCHAPD spent $12.1 million on its police force, budget documents show. The approved budget for fiscal year 2023 is $10.9 million.
“We police people in poverty way more than anyone else. Even down to SNAP, what you can and can’t purchase to eat,” Henderson says. “We don’t put these types of limits on anyone else. So it’s not surprising, and it fits into an American ideology of paternalism and thinking we know best about these types of things.”
Henderson also notes that many of DCHAPD’s supervisors are retired MPD officers, including Chief Maupin. “I thought that was very interesting,” she says. “You retire from the force and then take this job because it’s seen as you’re kind of still involved, but not at the same level of MPD.”
At-Large Councilmember Robert White, who chairs the Council’s housing committee and has oversight of DCHA, says in an emailed statement that the allegations against Douglass and others “do not point to a functional, healthy law enforcement.”
As chair of the Committee on Housing, White says he’s “committed to conducting close oversight of the DC Housing Authority Police Department, understanding what happened after previous misconduct investigations, and making any necessary changes to improve the culture going forward.”
In court, DCHAPD Officer David Stafford testified on behalf of Floyd’s petition for a temporary restraining order last August. Stafford, one of the two officers who separated the two women, told the judge that he walked into the locker room after he heard shouting, as Floyd was trying to arrest Marbury. He testified that Marbury continued to swing at Floyd, and as he pulled Marbury away, he heard her say, “This doesn’t end here. I don’t care if it’s my last day.”
Stafford, who did not respond to a request for comment, told the judge that he believed Marbury was capable of carrying out her threats “because of her temper and her access to firearms,” according to a description of his testimony in court documents.
Marbury denied deliberately choking Floyd and told the judge that she felt threatened when Floyd invaded her personal space. (Judge Ebony M. Scott noted in court records that Marbury is 5 feet, 1 inch tall and Floyd is 5 feet, 10 inches tall.) Marbury claimed that Floyd didn’t tell her she was under arrest before she tried to put her in handcuffs.
“[Marbury] agreed that she was angry and screaming at [Floyd] but denied making any threats to kill [Floyd] or cause any physical injury,” according to a summary of her testimony in court records. Floyd provided the judge with photos taken shortly after the altercation, which show scratches and red marks on her neck, and shared them with City Paper as well.
Tameka Boatwright, a special police officer for DCHAPD, testified on Marbury’s behalf and told the judge that Marbury had previously talked about feeling bullied and disrespected by Housing Authority officers and was “anxious to switch teams.”
Judge Scott ultimately rejected Floyd’s TRO petition but said she “has shown a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of her claim.” Scott said she was unable to determine who the initial aggressor was, noting that Floyd crossed over the bench that separated the two in the locker room. But the marks on Floyd’s neck left little doubt that Marbury tried to choke her, Scott reasoned.
“The Court finds that the balance of the equities do not favor [Floyd] more than [Marbury] and that the public interest is not served in granting a temporary restraining order at this time,” the judge concluded.
Floyd says the MPD detective to whom she reported the assault ended up writing a warrant for Marbury’s arrest, but the U.S. Attorney’s Office says that they declined to pursue the case.
About two weeks after the locker room fight, Marbury was arrested, on Oct. 4, for a separate domestic violence related incident, according to public records. She was never formally charged.
Floyd, for her part, acknowledges she still has things to learn about the job. She says she was previously written up for calling out sick in order to avoid working with another officer, which is against the rules. She also says she has been involved in multiple uses of force and has a high arrest rate, which earned her a reputation as a proactive, aggressive officer.
“And I’m proud of it,” she says. “I earned my place as a White, blonde female officer, who everyone thought would sleep her way in [to the department]. In the end, people would try me, and now when I walk through neighborhoods … I earned that respect.”
After months of hounding DCHA’s human resources office, Floyd finally received a brief explanation that she was fired during her probationary period, which means she is not entitled to the hearing and appeals process that’s laid out in the department’s general orders. Officers’ probationary period is one year, according to the union handbook, but Floyd says she worked for DCHAPD for more than a year by the time he was suspended.
“I’m not mad at her,” Floyd says of Marbury. “I’m upset at the organization that’s supposed to protect its officers. When you’re in law enforcement, the person you should trust is your superior, who should be leading by example. And they’re letting us down at every corner.”