Cops on Campus

Forget detention. DISD means business with its new beefed-up police forceóbad business, say some employees.

Roberts says the district has handled grievances in accordance with policy. The district has also hired an attorney to specifically address the more serious questions of discrimination.

While those such as Graham say they don't necessarily disagree with the concept of creating a full-fledged police force, they distrust Vasquez's motives. They say they aren't convinced there will be a place for some longtime employees who are unable to be certified after police training or for those employees who don't have a city police department background.

One member of the group says he believes Vasquez is trying to prove a point to Bolton that he can "run a police department." Equally important, they say, the issues related to Vasquez's treatment of African-American employees are far from settled. Glover, of the police association, says his group is in the middle of an investigation that it hopes will determine if Vasquez is in fact treating African-Americans differently from the department's other employees.

Brian Stauffer
DISD security Sergeant Sophia Graham, above, says she is fighting to stay in a hostile work environment for the sake of her old schools; Adelfa Callejo, below, a politically active lawyer with interests in Hispanic issues, says the DISD’s disgruntled black police officers are protecting nothing more than their own agendas.
Peter Calvin
DISD security Sergeant Sophia Graham, above, says she is fighting to stay in a hostile work environment for the sake of her old schools; Adelfa Callejo, below, a politically active lawyer with interests in Hispanic issues, says the DISD’s disgruntled black police officers are protecting nothing more than their own agendas.

"What I mean by investigation is we are going to sit down with employees who are members of our organization, and when they relate things to us that are illegal or a violation of their rights, we are going to compile them and determine what our next step is," he says.


Callejo and other Vasquez supporters say that those who would criticize the chief or his police department plan are interested in maintaining the status quo and avoiding the work it will take to become part of a new department. She supports creating a police force to replace "a bunch of security officers" ill-prepared to handle real emergencies and says the race-related charges are a smoke screen.

"I talked to some of those women who are security...I said, 'Why do you think it's unfair? I'm sure you will be given an opportunity to take the training and to apply for the position, and I'm sure that they will give you preference because you've been there,'" she says. "The feeling that I got was exactly that, that it was retaliation [against Vasquez]. They were all black. None of them were white."

She says Vasquez would not be out of line if he just fired the black detractors who refuse to do what it takes to change and become part of the new department.

"If you are going to improve the system, I don't believe people have to be fired...however, when it requires more training and the employee refuses to do that training, then I think they should go."

The group of African-American employees has plenty to say about the plan, and it has little to do with proposed training. For one thing, they say, Vasquez has made little room at the top for blacks, something the district denies, and they don't see a full-fledged police department as being much different from the current one.

What's more, they say, the new Vasquez proposals are similar to what he's done since he arrived at the school district, which is to make the department more like a city police force that he tightly controls down to the lowest level. Since taking over the department, Vasquez has hired the kinds of applicants who come from municipal police forces--people who are often too heavy-handed with children and ill-suited to replace school security officers, members of the group say.

"The people that he's hired are police officers that came from municipalities that have been fired that don't know how to communicate with children," Graham says. "We don't need hotheads to work for DISD. We need people that know how to deal with children."

Members of the group say they've had good experiences handling students, and they've done it without guns. If they need the kind of help that requires guns and batons, the Dallas Police Department is not, and never has been, far away.

"I'm working from a preventative standpoint," says Burnough, the security assessment officer. "He [Vasquez] wants a reaction. If something happens, he wants to send these guys out with guns."

Graham says she's not optimistic about the proposed police force, about Vasquez in his dealings with her personally or with where he is taking a department plagued by race-based issues. But, she says, she is going to hang on and fight for her job.

"I only became a police officer so I can better show my neighborhood this is how police are supposed to conduct themselves," Graham says. "I'm a product of DISD. This is my school district. I've worked here too long to leave. I have to stay and fight and make it right. "

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