ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WDVM) — Don Hayes was promoted as Chief of Alexandria Police Department after serving as Acting Chief since June.

The D.C. native has been with the department for 41 years before he took over for Chief Michael Brown who retired in 2021. 

“Reimagining public safety means understanding our role, our role is to protect and serve all people, not just some people,” said Hayes. “And we have to get to know all people and not just some people, and we have to get people to understand that we’re there to serve them and that we need the trust in order for us to do our jobs correctly.”

Alexandria Police Department like most agencies around the country is experiencing short staffing. Chief Hayes said his priority is to not only recruit those who are qualified to do the job but to also retain those who were called to serve.

“You join this occupation because you really believe that you can make a difference in people’s lives and so you leave a lot more on the table that you can take away,” said Hayes. “And those are the kinds of people we’re looking for.”

Chief Hayes said one of the most pressing issues that need to be addressed is the mental health crisis. He thinks we need to find a better way to respond to those calls for help.

 “Sometimes they’re calling us because they don’t know what else to call,” said Hayes. “And so when we get there, we can’t look at it the same way we’re looking at a criminal situation….we’re looking at it as a crisis situation.”

Chief Hayes also plans to facilitate courageous conversations about race, trust, and the relationships between police and underserved communities. 

“We really got to be intentional about trying to break down those barriers and getting the police organizations and the people of color to realize we are much more alike than we are different, and we need to work together to deal with that once and for all,” said Hayes.