The Untouchable

Complaints of racism, dirty politics, and other fishy business simply roll off Denton County's Teflon sheriff, Weldon Lucas

With the exception of two black women clerks, no African-Americans work on the front side of the wall. Not one black man or any woman works the roads of Denton County as a deputy or investigator, and none has since Clark left the department in 1998. (Denton County's population is roughly 6 percent black.)

Clark says Lucas told racist jokes in an incredibly racist department that discouraged real police work from all but insiders "who knew the right people not to ticket."

"It's just like 1950s Alabama, alive and well in Denton County. He's untouchable, so he thinks. Nobody challenges him."

One former employee complains that as Denton County's sheriff, Weldon Lucas, top, and with jailer Tesa Walker, bottom, has presided over two major jail expansions, which should provide more opportunities for blacks to find jobs in the Anglo-dominated department.
Peter Calvin
One former employee complains that as Denton County's sheriff, Weldon Lucas, top, and with jailer Tesa Walker, bottom, has presided over two major jail expansions, which should provide more opportunities for blacks to find jobs in the Anglo-dominated department.

Clark calls the department a "cesspool" inhabited by insiders seeking personal gain.

"These guys are still living these cowboy fantasies, coming in with their saddlebag thrown over their shoulder, wearing a low-slung gun rig on their hip and their string ties," he says. "I've been in law enforcement for 15 years now, and I know who good officers are and what a good officer is, and I know a good ol' boy, but you hear him [Lucas] talking about the good old days when you can whup up on somebody and all that, and I'm thinking, good old days for who? You whup up on me just 'cause I'm black, what I look like. That's kind of what they thought.''

When Lucas first took office, he quickly demoted Clark from sergeant to patrol deputy, among other demotions. Clark was told he was to change jobs because he was better suited as a patrol deputy.

"My demotion speech was 'you do everything right, you dress well, but I could use you better as patrol deputy.' In other words, I'm being demoted because I'm doing my job.''

Because Clark's pay was unchanged, he didn't quit on the spot. Later, despite his being the top patrol deputy, he was overlooked for raises given a Caucasian patrolman in the same position. Clark claims that he was demoted because the word at the sheriff's department was that he had only made sergeant in the first place "because he was a nigger."

Lucas says Clark was reassigned with about 15 others and that it wasn't discrimination.

But being demoted was only the beginning of Clark's experience with racism at Denton County's Sheriff's Department under Lucas. Clark says a co-worker heard about Lucas "sitting around one of the SWAT meetings telling nigger jokes and throwing 'nigger' out left and right and the guy comes back and tells me.

"So I go back to the sergeant's office and explode and tell everybody exactly what I thought, because I knew it would eventually get back to him. And sure enough, about a week later he called me in the office and said, 'I understand you're mad at me.' I was like yeah, I am. I told him why, and he's like, 'Well, I don't remember saying that...but the way I was raised, I might have.'"

Lucas remembers the incident and said he does not remember using the word, which he considers foreign.

"I was not telling black jokes. It wasn't even a joke. It was a real thing that did happen, and if I used that word, it's not a word I use and I told him at the time that if I did, then I apologize to you," Lucas says. "Another lady that heard that I had said it came in and I apologized to her, and I said it's not my way...If it happened, it was definitely a mistake."

Though he knew of qualified black applicants for the front of the department, Lucas wouldn't consider actually hiring one unless the numbers of minorities in the department as a whole significantly declined, Clark claims.

"There would be a black applicant on the paper, perfectly good applicant, college, good clean record, ready to go to work, and he would look at it and see, you know, black male and go, naw, that ain't happening," Clark says.

Clark came to despise the lack of real work given to him and any of the others who were not on the "inside."

"We had a lot of freedom because nobody really cared. They didn't want you to do anything, and they didn't want you to go out and enforce. If you did write up the wrong person, you'd get in trouble for it. You do the right thing and then it turns out to be somebody he knows."

Clark quit after he was constantly frustrated with "jokes" such as being called "boy" in the hallway by white deputies who would then yuk it up at his expense.

"When I get pissed off at the county because some idiot goes, 'Hey, boy,' trying to be funny, they say, 'Hey man, what's up with this guy?'

By the time he decided to quit, Clark's weight had ballooned to 320 pounds and he felt "mean and mad" all the time.

"If you're not a member of the young Republicans club, if you're not white, and you can't supply free beer or barbecue or something or you got some gimmick or you'll do whatever they say, you can't make it. I'm sure when I left they were probably like, 'Phew, that's the last one.'"

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