The Untouchable

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

"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.

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.

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.'"

Bernadette Lambert, one of the last women patrol deputies, says Lucas did not want females on the road either. Lambert, who is out of the sheriff's department and law enforcement, said after one woman had surgery, she said Lucas told her, "'These damn women and their female problems. If I didn't have to hire another one, I wouldn't.'"

Lambert say Lucas "ran blacks off" one way or another.

"The blacks, it was pretty evident he didn't want them from the day he walked in the door," she says.

A black jailer who had a police baton "shoved up her butt" while she was exercising with fellow officers in 1996, complained about the incident but then quit the department after her supervisors tried to convince her to change her story.

"It was just horrible. That's when I knew this wasn't a place for me to be working," she says. "One of the black guys threw a kiss at one of the white females that worked there and he was terminated, and he was terminated really quick, but this guy was not terminated, he continued to work there, the guy that did that to me...It's terrible. It's a terrible atmosphere to work in."

Says Clark: "They turned on her like rabid dogs. They were just kind of like that old, well, 'if you hadn't been dressed in such a short skirt, you wouldn't have been raped.' They tried to make it her fault. They'd stare her down when they were in briefing and walk past her in the halls and eyeball her and lean over and whisper. It would just be intimidation."

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