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Tacoma Police official cites racial bias in resignation amid ethics probe

A concrete sign with the words Tacoma Police Department Headquarters sits in front of a glass and brick building.
Ted S. Warren
The Associated Press
The headquarters for the Tacoma Police Department on South Pine Street in Tacoma.
Updated: November 2, 2023 at 3:05 PM PDT
Added statement from Police Chief Avery Moore

The top-ranking civilian under Tacoma Police Chief Avery Moore has resigned. Former Chief of Staff Curtis Hairston, who is Black and was hired by Moore, said he quit due to racial bias in the department.

Earlier this year, Hairston was the subject of an ethics investigation and Moore placed him on paid leave on Sept. 12. Emails obtained by KNKX show Moore instructed staff not to make a statement to KNKX acknowledging the ethics investigation into Hairston.

But in an interview with KNKX on Wednesday, Hairston said the investigation was about him asking questions to an assistant chief about the hiring process when Hairston’s stepson was a job candidate. Hairston said his behavior was found to have been ill-advised and not misconduct. He said he was cleared of wrongdoing but he had already made up his mind to resign on October 11. His stepson was not hired by the department.

As Chief of Staff since April 2022, Hairston oversaw about two dozen administrative employees. He said he was hired by Moore to help repair the racial divide between Tacoma police and the community.

Emails obtained by KNKX show the chief consulted Hairston about changing the Police Department’s organizational structure – including creating the chief of staff position – three months before offering Hairston the job. Hairston was hired for $192,000 a year.

Hairston previously ran an armed security company based in the Dallas-Forth Worth area. Moore spent over 30 years in the Dallas police department, rising through the ranks to assistant chief before coming to Tacoma in January 2022.

In his resignation letter dated Oct. 11, Hairston writes he “was destined not to succeed in this position from the start due” to his race and the assumptions that he got his job due to his close relationship with Moore, who is also Black.

Hairston said the hiring process for officers is racially biased and he notes the lack of Black officers. He said white officers receive better treatment and some policies are only enforced for Black employees. He also said disparaging racial comments about Black employees are commonplace.

He wrote that the ethics investigation was meant to discredit him and that he’s seen police following him in his personal time. He said he plans to file an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint.

Deputy Chief Paul Junger initially declined to respond to the allegations in an email and said Hairston’s letter was referred to human resources.

Moore, the police chief, provided a statement to KNKX on Nov. 2.

"I am aware of the allegations regarding racial bias made by Curtis Hairston, a former Chief of Staff in the Tacoma Police Department. I take these claims very seriously and I am committed to building a Police Department that is fair, just, and accountable," Moore wrote. "Although the specifics of this, or any, personnel issue are confidential, I can assure you that the Tacoma Police Department will continue working to uphold the highest standards of conduct."

Jared Brown is a Tacoma-based reporter for KNKX covering the intersections of policing, courts and power with a focus on accountability and solutions. He is currently a Poynter Media and Journalism Fellow. You can email him at