Good cop, bad cop

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

"The chief of police had asked me to ensure that the questions asked of Chief Tolliver were not demeaning in any way and that his position as the deputy chief of the department was respected," Rollins explained in his deposition. "I was not responsible for supervising the investigation nor any of the aspects of it. That was my sole mission--to make sure that the questions were all above-board and professionally presented."

Unlike Forsyth and Kirks, Tolliver doesn't get a great deal of sympathy from the rank and file.

"The Tolliver people are forgetting to look at what he did," says police association president White. "Unfortunately, it always gets back to because he is black. It's a crutch. It's getting to be a pretty disgusting one."

This past June, in a move that went unnoticed in the media, the city of Dallas authorized two very large checks--$799,045 each--payable to Forsyth, Kirks, and their lawyer Doug Larson.

The courts (all of the city's appeals have failed, and the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear the case) had ordered the city to pay most of that money. But the total settlement also included $125,000 that the courts had ordered Rollins to pay, as well as $125,000 that another supervisor, Richard Hatler, was told to pay.

"I don't know why the city paid Rollins' money," Larson says. "But I'm glad they did."

The payment has raised some eyebrows. A state law bars a municipality from paying more than $100,000 of an individual employee's liability. Although the courts have allowed some exceptions, the rules still exist.

Roy Honeycutt, a member of the City of Dallas Police Review Board, was one of those who objected to the payment of Rollins' court-assessed damages. Honeycutt also tried to persuade his 14 fellow panelists to launch their own investigation into the Forsyth-Kirks debacle. While the board declined, Honeycutt hasn't given up. He now hopes to use a citizen complaint filed by Kirks to trigger a panel investigation of Rollins.

City attorney Sam Lindsay says he believes the city was obligated by its bond insurance and its contractual relationship with its employees to pay the judgment against Rollins.

Rollins had also managed to put city lawyers on the defensive. In May 1995, he filed his own claim against the city, stating that it had been negligent in representing him in the Forsyth-Kirks case. Rollins told the Morning News, "We were outlawyered; when you look at my entire career and my record I get nothing but outstanding evaluations."

Lindsay dismisses Rollins' gripes about his department's lawyering. "I consider the claim to be without merit," he says, adding that it put no pressure on him to pay Rollins' part of the judgment.

Complaints about Rollins have surfaced anew amid rumors that Chief Click might leave Dallas. The executive assistant chief would seem to be a likely candidate to replace him. Rollins is the most seasoned chief below Click and has already applied for the job once--in 1991, when Rathburn, an outsider, was ultimately selected. Rollins' fellow executive assistant chief, Robert Jackson, has three fewer years in the department. Jackson ranks as second-in-command under the current rotation of duties, but has served under Rollins in the past and could do so again under another rotation.

The rumor mills in Dallas and Arizona have been churning overtime with talk that Click, who has been in Dallas for almost five years, would opt to leave for the top job in Phoenix, where he served for 28 years. But Click, who didn't return calls for this story, said through a spokesman that he is not leaving.

But Rollins' proximity to the top--and the possibility that he could vie for the chief's position some time in the future--still strikes many of the troops as some kind of bad joke.

"No way, no how," says former police union president Means, laughing derisively.

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