Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Former Willits Police Chief Alexis Blaylock Sues City for $500,000 Claiming a Hostile Work Environment, Sexism, and Racism

[The picture of Alexis Blaylock on the left is from the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training website and the picture on the right is from a Willits Police Department press release]

Veteran law enforcement officer Alexis Blaylock was sworn-in as the Chief of Willits Police Department on August 26, 2020. Just over one month later on October 8, Blaylock resigned. In a letter addressed to Willits’s City Council, the Castillo Harper law firm claims Blaylock, their client, faced a hostile work environment, harassment, sexism, and racism. According to the letter, Blaylock is willing to release the claims against the city for a payment of $500,000 and a commitment by the city to provide workplace discrimination and retaliation training to make the city and police department “more tolerant, effective, and honest.”

The letter claims Blaylock was “met with immediate hostility from subordinates openly resistant to a black female Chief and opposed to accountability.”

The letter specifically names Lieutenant Derek Hendry as one of those subordinates who openly resisted Blaylock. He told her “he had a problem with a female chief and that he and other officers were not accustomed to reporting to a woman.” Lieutenant Hendry is reported to have told Blaylock it is “odd” to work for a woman in the presence of City of Willits’s Human Resources Director Karen Stevenson. The letter also states that Lieutenant Hendry told an unnamed city employee that Chief Blaylock’s race was “instrumental in his opposition to her.”

The letter claims Blaylock faced “baseless complaints” to her attempts to “implement basic, but essential procedures” such as cataloging the police department’s keys. Blaylock found keys to secure areas “unsecured, unaccounted for, not cataloged, and stored randomly in different places.” Blaylock even found one of the department’s evidence room’s keys was missing. After learning an employee on medical had the other evidence room key, for all intents and purposes there was no key to the evidence room.

Blaylock also found deficiencies in the evidence room’s security. She found there were no cameras or alarms for the entrance to the evidence room. There is a camera inside of the evidence room, but “that would be of little value if a breach is not recognized to prompt a review of the footage.” This concerned Blaylock because the unsecured evidence room “compromises evidence and jeopardizes court cases.”

Blaylock took steps to catalog the department’s keys and establish a key accountability system, but was told by Willits City Manager Stephanie Garrabrant-Sierra that her priorities were “misplaced” and criticized her for “micro-managing.”

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The letter claims one of the grievances levied by Blaylock’s Willits co-workers was she was often “unreachable or unavailable.” Blaylock would inquire as to “who needed to reach her and when” and would receive “vague and contradictory responses.” At one point, Blaylock was told by Lieutenant Hendery that Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall and Little Lake Fire Chief Chris Wilkes were looking for her and “could not find her.” Blaylock proceeded to follow up with both and was told they had not been looking for her and knew how to get in touch with her if necessary. 

Another complaint made about Blaylock arose from a Willits Police Department officer’s worker’s compensation claim that was said to have resulted from a use of force incident. The letter says on October 5, 2020 Blaylock was presented a worker’s compensation claim by an officer who was said to have been injured during a use of force circumstance on September 9. Blaylock is said to have checked the police report and found no use of force was documented. Concerned by the inconsistency, Blaylock asked the employee to file a supplemental report that described the use of force. Based on this experience, Blaylock proceeded to address all of WPD’s officers regarding use of force incidents and resulting injuries always being reported in a timely manner. These directives resulted in the City Manager telling Blaylock her insistence the officer write a supplemental report regarding the use of force related to his injury “somehow violated the employee’s rights.” The City Manager then “admonished Chief Blaylock for directing the Lieutenant and Sergeant to follow the law and policy and accused Chief Blaylock of threatening her subordinates.”

The City Manager directed Blaylock on or about October 6, 2020, to stay home for the rest of the week and return with “a fresh perspective.” After the break, Blaylock was told she would be every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday with the City Manager, and Lieutenant Hendry to assess how “Blaylock was doing.” The letter stated that “it was clearly implied that Hendry, Chief Blaylock’s white male subordinate, would be instrumental in evaluating Chief Blaylock’s performance.”

The letter claims that Blaylock was subjected to “disparate treatment based on her race and gender” which were “key factors in the City’s adverse employment actions and harassing conduct.” Blaylock’s hiring was a result of “mere tokenism,” the letter asserts, and the City retaliated and criticized her any time she attempted to make “necessary and constructive changes in the department.” 

The letter demands compensation of $500,000 for lost wages, past, and present, and the “pain, suffering emotional distress, and reputational harm she has suffered.” On top of the monetary damages, Blaylock is demanding City of Willits leadership complete a course on “discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in the workplace” and be “trained on their responsibilities to report and investigation possible workplace misconduct.” Blaylock is also demanding that members of the Willits Police Department that have not completed a “legislatively mandated course on racial profiling” be required to do so.

We reached out to Willits Police Department for comment regarding the claims described in the article with no response. It is important to note that these claims have not been proved in a court of law.

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  1. This chief will continue fortune hunting, in every little town that will hire her. Collect the money an move on, Anybody check to see how many times this has been done already, to other police departments. SCAM ARTIST!

  2. The City of Willits MUST account for these blatant acts of racism, sexism, tokenism, and discrimination. This is beyond shameful! It is a disgrace! I will be personally boycotting the City of Willits, I feel that this city no longer deservers my patronizing of their local economy. I welcome others that would like to join my boycott. The City of Willits MUST pull their heads out of the sand and admit to these accusations with public apology. Transparency is a MUST in this is issue to save the integrity of city and its’ police department. SHAME ON YOU City of Willits !!

  3. I for one as a resident of Willits know that we as a community are capable of many things and racism does not come out of it. I can remember taking a intro to law enforcement taught by Ret. Chief/Council member Gerry Gonzalez and Ret. Deputy Mike Tobin and hearing an account of Willits getting its first taste of big city police leadership and the precinct zones that failed Willits in the late 80s to early 90s. I wonder how this lady came to be an acceptable candidate to lead an extremely important resource in our community when she has clear intention of #metoo tolerance as sited in June 2020 https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/opinion/story/2020-06-10/black-mother-police-sergeant-grieve?_amp=true#referrer=https://www.google.com&csi=0
    We voted on a tax measure in November that will now directly fund this attack and it’s repercussions for its first years and lead us to the very conclusion proposed in it’s non action. I for one would join a liability suit in the defarmation of community against Ms. Blaylock and hope that many would join me in the hopes that we could once again overcome adversity and financial constraints that hold our town back. We need only look at our officers and praise them for joining the department that doesn’t pay large dividends in monetary value but rather in community value. I know Willits will survive this attack but how potholed and clap boarded must it get at the cost of one person a hired hand that slapped this communities face. Join me and say Willitstoo instead of metoo and write letter of support to our PD and the city citing that we stand as us Willits residents always have in the face of diversity.

  4. Is anyone remotely shocked? Is this an epic failure or some scam? Everyone in Willits knows Derek Hendry should NEVER have been a cop let alone promoted! Do we remember his arrest for domestic violence back in the late 90s? Have we forgotten he was run out of the Sheriff’s Office? Are we surprised he hates women? Who hired him knowing his history? Oh I know, his side piece in City Management! Now Willits is losing half a million to some lady who outsmarted Hendry! What a stack of complete BS!

  5. He’s a despicable, low-class scuzzball. His entire family is. Just a bunch of painfully uneducated hicks who love to bully people.

  6. I haven’t spoken with Allie since her Retirement from an Agency greater many times greater in scale to go to some Mayberry-like “Heat of the Night” situation like this. I figured she was fine with her Law Enforcement Teaching situation with the State. Just like the rest of this Country where Race is concerned… YOUR LOSS. I’m not even talking Civil Suits here. Trained Professionals that keep Metrics on this sort of data will tell you that keeping non-Whites out of positions they’re qualified for costs the USA Billions every year.. “People pay for what they do, and still more for what they have allowed themselves to become. And they pay for it very simply; by the lives they lead.”—JamesBaldwin

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I like to think of myself as a reporter for the Average Joe. Journalism has become a craft defined largely by city dwellers on America's coasts. It’s time to take it back. I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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