Chinese signatures on graduation certificates upset northern Virginia police chief

Apr 3, 2024, 3:41 PM

FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — A northern Virginia town has been excluded from a countywide police training academy after the town’s chief complained about Chinese signatures on trainees’ graduation certificates.

Herndon Police Chief Maggie DeBoard complained that the academy director, Maj. Wilson Lee, used Chinese characters to sign the certificates that graduates receive when they complete training at the Fairfax County Criminal Justice Academy.

In an email sent last month and obtained by The Associated Press, DeBoard told Lee, “I just found out that the academy graduation certificates were signed by you in some other language, not in English. This is unacceptable for my agency. I don’t want our Herndon officers to receive these and I am requesting that they are issued certificates signed in English, the language that they are expected to use as an officer.”

On March 18, the county’s deputy executive for safety and security, Thomas Arnold, wrote to DeBoard informing her that the county was terminating Herndon’s affiliation with the academy.

In a statement, Herndon Town Manager Bill Ashton said the town is reviewing the incident.

He defended DeBoard. “It is unfortunate that Chief DeBoard’s recent interaction with Fairfax County’s Criminal Justice Academy has been viewed as discriminatory. I have personally known Chief DeBoard for over 12 years and this interaction is completely inconsistent with the dedicated public servant that I know,” Ashton said.

The Town of Herndon is a part of Fairfax County, just outside the nation’s capital, but the town maintains its own police force. The much larger Fairfax County Police Department is the primary user of the academy, which also serves the town of Vienna, the county sheriff’s office and the county fire marshal.

Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis declined to comment on the dispute. But in an email he sent to officers, he defended Lee, saying. “For 16 years of an impeccable career, memorializing a legal name given at birth with a signature that exudes heritage pride has not garnered a single criticism. Nor should it.”

Last year, a former Herndon police officer sued the town in federal court, saying she suffered sexual harassment and discrimination at the hands of a supervisor. The lawsuit accused DeBoard of failing to stop the harassment even though she was aware of it.

The lawsuit was eventually settled before trial, but court papers indicate that other officers complained of racial discrimination during the time DeBoard has been chief.

In the court papers, the town said DeBoard took the female officer’s concerns seriously and that she would have recommended firing the officer accused of harassment, but he resigned before she could do so. Lawyers for the town said the complaints of racial discrimination were made by officers who faced disciplinary action.

Herndon Police referred questions Wednesday to the statement issued by the town manager.

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Chinese signatures on graduation certificates upset northern Virginia police chief