PRESS RELEASE: Hazing is an “Alternative Learning Opportunity” at Arlington Fire Department Training Academy

I’m Audrey Clement, Independent candidate for Arlington County Board on November 2, and I’m concerned about allegations of ritualistic hazing at the Arlington Fire Department Training Academy.

When I first read the report in WDVM News I was incredulous. I thought that hazing had been outlawed on school campuses decades ago and that it didn’t happen in the workplace.

But former Fire Department recruit Brett Ahern, who alleged that his instructor forced him to perform demeaning acts as an “Alternative Learning Opportunity” (ALO), was backed up by other recruits, who testified against the instructor in a confidential investigative report last year.

Now these firefighters fear retaliation, because they believe that the report was leaked by the department to the instructor in unredacted form.

The County Manager’s office insists that hazing is not tolerated. Yet Brett Ahern was flunked from the firefighter training course, while the instructor who hazed him and others was merely relieved of his teaching duties.

It is surprising that hazing happened in a county that prides itself on the professionalism of its uniformed services. Yet in a one party state like Arlington County, loyalty to the machine is rewarded, disloyalty to the chain of command is punished, and officials routinely deny responsibility for bad outcomes.

If this situation disturbs you, rest assured that if elected, I will insist upon a higher code of conduct for all county employees. I will also:

  • Seek immediate tax relief for residents and businesses.
  • Say YES to affordable housing and NO to “Missing Middle” up-zoning.
  • Preserve Arlington’s cultural heritage and stop permitting the demolition of historic structures.
  • Save our parks, streams and tree canopy and stop clearcutting wooded areas on public property.
  • Say YES to real social justice reforms and NO to symbolic gestures.

As a 17-year Westover resident, long-time civic activist and former member of the Transportation Commission, I have both the experience and independence to promote these reforms.
If you share my agenda, then:

  • Spread the word about my candidacy.
  • Donate to my campaign.
  • Help make the “Arlington Way” more than an empty phrase.
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