By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Lou says he has soured on the job for a host of reasons, starting with the quality of his chain of command. Digging into a plate of fried calamari, Lou reaches for a food analogy to describe his bosses. "We used to have caviar. We had leaders. Real men. Now we have cream cheese."
His reference was to Chief Bolton's demotion in his first months on the job of a raft of experienced commanders, all of whom subsequently quit the department. Their replacements were mostly less-seasoned officers, some of whom were triple-promoted from sergeant to chief, just as Bolton was in the early 1990s. Lou's station house has been stuck with one of the duds, he says.
"I would say the pay referendum has something to do with it, too," he says, referring to voters' rejection of a 17 percent pay hike in early 2001. "If nobody cares...why should I?"
Jaime, who is Hispanic, is also on patrol, a lone man in a car. He uses what he says is a cliché around the department to describe why his productivity has crashed and burned: "You can get in trouble for doing your job," he says. "You can't get in trouble for not doing your job."
In his view, erratic decisions in disciplinary cases in Bolton's regime have soured him toward joining chases, seeking out high-crime areas or doing much beyond answering the calls assigned him.
He says he understands a need for the department to "pop" officers who break the rules, but he says he sees the chief going too easy on some and too hard on others. Like Rios, the retired sergeant, he believes Bolton was out of line in firing the three officers in Northwest whose actions were captured by camera in a TV helicopter last May. Even the suspect said the three--Ricardo Rodriguez, James Walker and Senior Corporal Gregory Fanucci--should not lose their jobs, he says.
"Bolton thought he had a free pass on that because nobody was black," says Jaime, who believes Hispanic and white officers are more closely scrutinized than African-Americans under Dallas' first black chief--a common complaint among Hispanics and whites on the force. The three fired men had exemplary records with nothing but commendations.
"Bolton lays the hammer on these guys when they were acting in the course of their job. It's not like they were sitting in a coffee shop, reading a newspaper, letting the calls go by. They were trying to apprehend the guy. He could have killed somebody."
The man they tackled and scuffled with was wanted for house burglary and credit card abuse. He eventually pleaded guilty to those crimes, as well as to stealing the car he was driving in the chase and resisting arrest.
Says Jaime: "If there's any semblance of perceived impropriety and you're not the right guy, you're gonna be severely disciplined. I have a family. I can't afford to let this guy put me out of work." He would not have been mad, he says, if Bolton suspended the officers for a few days and explained to the public that some situations require officers to use force, which is never pretty. "He needs to be our voice," says Jaime as he knifes off the last sliver of his bone-in rib eye. "Bolton's never our voice."
Al, who is white, says a few years ago he made as many as 90 trips a month to jail with people he'd arrested. These days, he makes no arrests and writes no citations. He sought out and landed a low-voltage job that requires neither. "I'm only marking time," he says, saying he needs less than five years to collect retirement.
"My immediate thinking right now is that we're being run by incompetents," he says. "They're inconsistent in the way they administer rules and regulations, so how am I supposed to have faith in what I'm doing? What am I supposed to do if I don't have any support from my department?"
He says "sniffing around drug houses" and "seeking out a lot of action in high-crime areas" are things patrol cops do at their own discretion. "I would venture to say that most aren't gonna do that today."
Al says he hasn't always been so down on DPD brass. "I never agreed with everything, but our level of professionalism in the past was high and we had leaders who could articulate what they were trying to do." Today, he says, he has no idea why the administration does what it does. "We're just at constant battle with them," he says.
The drop in ticket writing, he says, has specific roots in the pay referendum. "Everyone knows tickets mean revenue to the city. They can't make you write tickets," he says. So when most of City Hall and Dallas' business leadership lined up against the police pay raise, some cops pushed back. They made deliberate decisions to keep their ticket books under the seat, he says.