To the editor:
As someone who knew former Alexandria Police Chief Charles Samarra, who died last week at age 74 following complications from surgery, I would like to share the following memory of Chief Samarra:
As a young man, my dream was to be an Alexandria police officer. By the fall of 1996, I had made it through all phases of the hiring process and on to the last step: a one-on-one meeting with the chief. I was extremely nervous because I knew that interview was a “make or break” situation.
I arrived in the chief’s anteroom. I remember his assistant being extremely pleasant and I remember the meeting starting exactly on time. I was struck by that – I was just a young applicant, but Chief Samarra made sure to be punctual. I walked into his office, silently running through the lengthy statement I had memorized to sell myself.
After a few pleasantries, Samarra looked at me, smiled, and said: “I think we can make this interview very brief. The job is yours if you’re willing to promise me a couple of things. First, you have to promise to work hard. Second, you have to promise to be willing to learn from your superiors. Third, you have to promise to be truthful, all the time, every time. That’s what I expect from my officers.”
Within minutes, I had made the requisite promises and received a welcoming handshake along with the following words: “Welcome to the Alexandria Police Department, Officer Porter.”
I have always remembered those promises. While I am human and have certainly often failed, I have done my best to live up to them. Thank you, Chief Samarra, for providing a young man with a simple, time-tested paradigm for a successful career.
-Bryan Porter, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Alexandria