White Rampage

Police Chief Terrell Bolton threatens a riot, but he's got the wrong folks in mind

And the one kind of person you really don't want to see go ballistic is a smart middle-class dude who knows where to aim.

One of the angriest and most disillusioned people I spoke with was Randy Staff, who is a CPA, a former partner in one of the big international accounting firms, current owner of American Bank on Northwest Highway, and husband of the president of the Dallas school board. I hope he's still the husband of the president of the school board after this column runs (I get the feeling that their views on City Hall are sometimes quite divergent).

But let me tell you: Staff is a very angry man. Staff believes one possible explanation for the city's refusal to help the Bachman Lake area is corruption at the top. Staff doesn't accuse Bolton of criminal corruption, but he is disappointed that Bolton isn't, in his view, more obviously on the side of the law. "Bolton and I had a big blowup, because the police were just not enforcing the ordinances," he says.

Randy Staff is a very angry man. He believes one possible explanation for the city’s refusal to help the Bachman Lake area is corruption at the top.
Stephen P. Karlisch
Randy Staff is a very angry man. He believes one possible explanation for the city’s refusal to help the Bachman Lake area is corruption at the top.

Staff is willing to spread the blame around. He believes that his city council member, John Loza, is cozy with the sex club owners and has completely sold the neighborhood down the river--"gone to the dark side," as he puts it.

But the person on whom Staff and others in that part of town heap their most bitter scorn is Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk. They are furious that Kirk has said he does not want an investigation of Bolton and, by inference, of sex club corruption in the police department.

So committed to rescuing his part of town is Staff that he traveled to New York a couple of years ago and spoke with Mayor Rudy Giuliani and top staff members about the campaign to clean up Times Square. "Everybody agreed," he says. "To do anything, you have to have the mayor 100 percent committed. He has to say, 'I want this stuff closed, and I want it closed down now!'"

Instead, Mayor Kirk has dithered and dallied and taken so many positions on the sex clubs that his detractors in the Bachman Lake area are asking pointed questions about who's got what on whom. Neighborhood activist Tim Dickey said to me, "I want to know who's been compromised. Who's taking money? Who do they have pictures of?"

Dickey, like many of his neighbors, is ready to completely lose his cool if the city doesn't answer the main question about the sex club meeting eight years ago: Who ordered it?

Dallas police Lt. John Sullivan is the one who attended it. He said at the time he didn't remember who told him to go. Now, he says it was Bolton. If Sullivan were a witness in court, I'm sure the lawyers on the other side would point out to the jury that he has already told a falsehood at least once. (Neither Bolton, who was traveling last week, nor Sullivan could be reached for comment.)

What he is saying now, according to a Brett Shipp story on WFAA-Channel 8, is that Bolton told him to go. But a law enforcement friend, speaking to me on background, pointed out that Sullivan did not exactly say on television that Bolton had told him to lay off enforcement. What Sullivan actually claims is that Bolton told him to make sure any cops going into the sex club to enforce the law were accompanied by supervisors.

First of all, it's not at all unusual for patrol officers to have field supervisors go with them on patrol. And second, the perennial accusation that sex club owners lodge against police is that young male cops go into the clubs to feel up the prostitutes. In every venue in America today, whether it's law enforcement or car sales, any complaint with overtones of sexual misbehavior is going to cause management to get cautious.

So there is a reasonable way to interpret everything Bolton might have done, except for two things: People in the neighborhood insist that enforcement really did stop at the clubs after Lipscomb took his bribe. And by denying that he ever spoke to his subordinates about the clubs after talking to Lipscomb, Bolton took a line that protected Lipscomb.

Dickey, the Bachman activist, isn't ready to assume that the charges against Bolton are true. But he is just about ready to take to the streets if the mayor gets away with saying it's not worth even trying to find out.

"Then all bets are off," he says. "Then good people start going into the streets and breaking the law, because that's just what's left. Civil disobedience. We've done it by the book so far, and every time we get shafted. There's a point at which all the wheels come off, and it will be their fault."

Personally? I don't think they're kidding.

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