Dallas' Chief Problem

Nobody believes Terrell Bolton anymore--except his friends at Dallas City Hall

Even one of Bolton's staunchest supporters says several of his key commanders are not working out.

"After you lose 11 games three years in a row, you begin to think the coach isn't the right match," says Glover of TPOA, which represents about 400 black officers in the department. "Some of these people have had three years to grow into their jobs, and they haven't." Bolton should begin reorganizing his staff for the good of his administration, he says.

That is about the only thing on which Glover and Bolton's critics agree. Beyond lies a gap so wide that perceptions are more powerful than facts. In the department, and beyond in city politics, it is impossible to talk with anyone about the city's first black police chief for very long before talk turns to race.

Dallas police Chief Terrell Bolton has a credibility problem in law enforcement, political and media circles. But his earnestness and media savvy--as well as a powerful group of political supporters--have helped him deflect blame for the problems in his department.
Peter Calvin
Dallas police Chief Terrell Bolton has a credibility problem in law enforcement, political and media circles. But his earnestness and media savvy--as well as a powerful group of political supporters--have helped him deflect blame for the problems in his department.
Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill, top, is one of the chief's strongest supporters. He believes Bolton has made the department a better place for minority officers. District Attorney Bill Hill, middle, didn't have as much luck as Bolton in dodging blame for the fake-drugs fiasco. Mayor Laura Miller, bottom, pinned down Bolton on what he knew about the fake-drug cases and when he knew it at a council briefing in March.
Peter Calvin
Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill, top, is one of the chief's strongest supporters. He believes Bolton has made the department a better place for minority officers. District Attorney Bill Hill, middle, didn't have as much luck as Bolton in dodging blame for the fake-drugs fiasco. Mayor Laura Miller, bottom, pinned down Bolton on what he knew about the fake-drug cases and when he knew it at a council briefing in March.


By the end of Ben Click's tenure in 1999, the Dallas Police Department looked like a smooth-running ship. Years of community policing initiatives and steady efforts to network with black and Hispanic leaders had all but eliminated the most obvious community tensions--and police shootings--of a decade earlier.

On the inside, though, it was roiling with racial complaints.

In December 1998, Glover and 41 other black officers filed a federal lawsuit accusing the department of racial disparity in discipline and promotions. The following year, just as Click was leaving, the U.S. Justice Department began to investigate the officers' complaints of disparate punishment. Although the feds are still conducting interviews three years later, black officers and political leaders are certain that the complaint had merit and that reform was necessary.

"The old ways of thinking, the old network that was in place during Click's tenure, led to the disparate discipline problem," says Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill, a former attorney for Glover's group who today chairs the key Public Safety Committee that oversees the DPD. "I worked for the [Texas Peace Officers Association] and saw firsthand the consistent termination and severe disciplinary actions being received by African-American officers."

In 1999, Bolton lined up support to become chief from influential council members such as Hill and Lipscomb, as well as Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, who has made a career out of supporting black officials in all corners of city government. Bolton made personnel his top priority.

When Bolton tossed out Click's commanders, the move seemed to defy racial patterns because he sent several senior minority officers packing. They differed from Bolton, though, in that they didn't share the view that the department was in the midst of a racial crisis.

"We were at a high state of professionalism," says Robert Jackson, now police chief of Killeen. "We had a wonderful group of commanders with command presence, and I think that led to DPD's success. It was recognized as being a top-notch department."

On personnel and other issues, Jackson, who is African-American, says, "I wasn't going to go blindly supporting John Wiley Price.

"Bolton was always having regular lunches with certain council members. He was constantly with Price. Price would get so upset with me he'd threaten protests at my house. [TPOA] was going to be there, too," he says.

Don Hill says Bolton's commanders do have a different view from Click's on the treatment of minority officers. "He brought a very significant change in the decision-makers, and as a result you are getting very different decisions. I think officers are getting a fairer shake. Most important, the guy on the top is more hands-on."

In his most recent performance review, covering 2001, Bolton listed diversifying the department as a page-one goal and underlined the fact that 62 percent of new hires during his tenure have been minorities or women. He broke down the numbers: 128 white males, 207 non-white males.

Jobs--who gets them, who holds them--are such a priority in Bolton's department that upper management gets involved in nearly every decision. "Right now it's transfers," says White, the union head. "You're supposed to apply and be selected off a list. The way they are running it, upper management steps in and says, 'We don't like any of those.' They fill the job with someone who didn't even apply." Rhonda Cates, a lawyer with White's group, says she is handling eight grievances on the matter and could end up filing suit.

A broad segment of black leaders in Dallas like Bolton and his diversity agenda. "There's an ownership of the chief by the African-American community," Hill says. "He's part of us. He came up through the ranks. He's the first one, and in our view he hasn't embarrassed us...He has an awful lot of proud kin."

And they are quick to rush to his defense.

Price, Alcorn and at least one member of the TPOA were among the throng who picketed Laura Miller's house in Kessler Park and hurled profanities at her in April 2001. Others have applied constant pressure on the media.

After Price and a group of protesters burned a stack of newspapers outside The Dallas Morning Newsin early 2001, an event it never reported, the daily backed off its aggressive news coverage of the chief, says one former News reporter. "There were calls to the editors all the time to ease off the chief. Reporters were reassigned," says the source, who continues to work in the media.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
7
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
 
Dallas Concert Tickets
Loading...