Good cop, bad cop

How does the Dallas police's "Teflon Chief" Willard Rollins skate past scrapes that could wreck other officer's careers?

"I told Channel 5 News, I said, Marty Griffin, I said if [Tolliver] tells you any lies, anything that you think is lies, just tell him I challenge him to a polygraph, and I'll match my pension against his," Yee bragged to another cop in the communications division. An automatic recording system taped the call.

Yee--by all accounts a disgruntled employee with a beef against Tolliver--rushed to bring Tolliver to judgment. He was helped by Rollins, who testified in a deposition that he didn't think the deputy chief fit his idea of a model employee.

New disclosures from the Tolliver suit show that Rollins then took an unusual step. Instead of waiting for police internal affairs investigators to get Tolliver's side of the story, Rollins jumped the gun and went straight to the Dallas County DA's office--meeting with assistant district attorney Mike Gillett to discuss a possible indictment of the deputy chief.

Tolliver's lawyer Wattley believes the haste to get to the DA's office shows the department's--as well as Rollins'--unfair treatment of Tolliver. The Tolliver case was express-delivered to the DA's office, Wattley notes, while it took six years for Chief Click even to consider investigating Rollins for his role in the Forsyth-Kirks case. And, of course, the chief declined to initiate an internal investigation.

When the district attorney forwarded the Tolliver case to a grand jury, the panel chose not to indict.

Janice Moss, the assistant city attorney handling the department's defense in the Tolliver lawsuit, insists that Rollins took no unusual or unfair steps in the case. He was "just consulting with the district attorney," as police do in any potentially criminal matter, she says. "Tolliver was not treated badly by the department," Moss says.

Gene Yee has since retired from the department and settled his own unrelated claim--in which he named both Rollins and Tolliver as defendants--for $55,000, he says.

Even though Rollins' role wasn't known at the time Tolliver appeared before the grand jury, black officers and politicians had noted the difference in treatment that Rollins received from his superiors in the Forsyth-Kirks matter and the beating Tolliver was taking. "We felt there is a dual standard," says Glover, president of the black officers association.

The internal investigation into Tolliver's conduct continued even after he was no-billed. The deputy chief refused to take a polygraph exam, and that may have stacked the deck against him. Whatever the case, at his disciplinary hearing in March 1995, Tolliver was told he would be demoted to lieutenant. He quit instead.

A year and a half later, Tolliver filed suit, claiming that he and other black officers are disciplined much more harshly than their white counterparts. The claim is still pending in federal court.

"The message they are trying to send me is: We don't want you here representing this police department," Tolliver told the Morning News during the internal investigation.

Tolliver refused an interview for this story.

In his testimony for the Tolliver suit, Rollins said he didn't think the African-American deputy chief had always "done his job the best way." Rollins had directly supervised Tolliver, who served in special operations, and had a number of gripes about his work.

"Both myself and my staff on some occasions had difficulty getting a hold of Chief Tolliver, even though he was equipped with telephones and pagers. He was sometimes nonresponsive. He also did not report to work on time on a pretty regular basis," Rollins said.

Some of Rollins' complaints seem trivial, including a beef involving some custom-made riding boots. Rollins recounted that the boots had been made for another officer, but that Tolliver had somehow ended up with them. He "had to be confronted by a lieutenant before he released those back to the officer concerned," Rollins stated in his deposition, though Tolliver's lawyer later established that Rollins never really knew whether Tolliver had been given the boots by mistake or had misappropriated them.

"Tolliver would do things like go out and try to learn to ride horses," Rollins said in his deposition. "And I personally had conversations with him that I didn't want him to fly helicopters, motorcycles, ride horses, or detonate bombs. I wanted him to be a chief over there and manage the operation." Wattley, Tolliver's attorney, pointed out to Rollins that the deputy chief had been taking the horse-riding lessons with his men as part of their special operations training.

Rollins, however, was not the first high-ranking officer to find fault with Tolliver's work. At the first Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl victory parade in 1993--the one that dissolved into rioting--Tolliver had been in charge of planning. Although Chief Rathburn ultimately bore the blame for the fiasco, Tolliver took a hit for choosing to ride in the parade alongside Troy Aikman when, critics say, he should have been situated up high where he could view the entire operation.

That incident and others could have been what compelled Rollins to hurry to the DA's office in 1995.

Furthermore, Rollins talked to the police internal affairs investigator about Tolliver before the embattled deputy chief had even had a chance to tell his side of the story, according to the investigator's calendar notes. Though Rollins had no formal role in the internal investigation, he also sat in on the interview with Tolliver later that same day.

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