By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Rollins is the former executive assistant chief who was demoted by Ben Click just before Click left town. Rollins, who presided over all of the department's investigative units, was accused of failing to report a very minor fender-bender traffic accident with a parked car and was busted to captain in charge of the jail on the graveyard shift. Rollins is now suing the city over his demotion, and, through his lawyer, declined to comment for this story.
But talk about an approach that is not warmly disposed toward community control or community influence: Rollins is the one under whose authority whole segments of the department have been officing with the FBI, taking part in things like the FBI Anti-Terrorism Task Force, apparently traveling in Europe under FBI control investigating people like Osama Bin Laden.
Last week when I asked Dallas FBI spokeswoman Marjorie Poche if there was a contract or document or something governing this arrangement -- please, some kind of paper -- she said no. No paper.
"It was a handshake deal between Chief Click and [FBI Special Agent in Charge Danny] Defenbaugh."
In fairness, Poche says Dallas cops weren't just giving the feds their intelligence: We were "sharing intelligence" with the FBI for our mutual benefit.
Whenever the FBI Anti-Terrorism Task Force is mentioned, the FBI people always cite their one big caper, the three so-called Ku Klux Klan members they caught two years ago who supposedly were plotting to blow up a gas plant in Wise County. That was a pathetic case in which an FBI informant who was in trouble for dope conned three gap-toothed geeks into joining a branch of the KKK that he himself may have organized, and then got them to say on tape they agreed to help him blow up a gas plant.
The main evidence was a videotape shot from a hidden camera under the dashboard of the informant's pickup in which the plotters, all straight out of the modular-housing version of Les Miserables, concurred with the informant that blowing up the gas plant just might be something to do. When I saw the tape in court, they all seemed to be sucking on something huge just off camera, which I bet was a joint the size of the Goodyear Blimp, supplied by guess who?
They're in federal prison now, probably getting the best dental care of their lives.
We can't help mentioning, also, that this is the FBI office that has investigated corruption in the Dallas Independent School District for two years now and has come up with janitors fudging on their overtime and roofing contractors cheating on their contracts. Next time we do a handshake deal, maybe we could switch and share intelligence with the roofers.
The issue of the FBI arrangement is entangled in the whole matter of how the department was run under Click, and it especially involves Rollins. His people were the ones running around with the FBI in Europe and over in Wise County policing the shallow end of the gene pool.
Rollins is a complex figure. Many people in the department believe he was the real chief under Click. I talked to Ben Click at his home in Arizona. (He said, "You're not bothering me. My wife was making me help clean the house.") Click insisted the story that Rollins really ran the department while Click was out all day politicking the community was "baloney."
"In the last five years, Will Rollins played a significant role in that department, but no more so than a half-dozen other people," Click said.
All right. That's Click's version. But many of his subordinates believe otherwise, and they say that Rollins' dominance and the deal with the FBI all had to do with channeling control of the department away from any kind of real local community influence.
Unfortunately for Bolton, nobody is talking much about disparate discipline or community-based policing because of the demotions.
Some of the moves seemed especially harsh because of a quirk in civil service rules: When he demoted people out of the chief's office, Bolton had to send them back to the last civil service rank they held before being promoted into management. That's why Jackson went back to sergeant: He was a sergeant before he was made an assistant chief.
There is also a perception in the department that some of the people demoted were getting payback for having testified in support of Rollins in his lawsuit.
The bottom line is that Bolton is struggling with very important issues -- issues that were there waiting for him when he took office. It looks messy. Click's regime looked tidier -- on the surface.
And about that FBI thing: Have any other city employees slipped down to the West End to work with the feds? Haven't seen those garbage men on the block in a while.