By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
And before I sound like I'm piling it all on her, please let me add that she actually may have done a little better than her colleagues. She's still the only one at City Hall who ever dared to ask our police chief a serious question about why his department can't tell the difference between cocaine and wallboard. (For out-of-towners: This is a reference to our "fake drugs" scandal, in which Dallas police arrested people on whom bags of ground-up gypsum had been planted to look like coke. Our police chief, Terrell Bolton, has never uttered a syllable of responsibility for this and instead is famous for saying that at least his officers prevented drug addicts from being made sick by injecting, smoking or snorting wallboard.)
Bolton, who gets more Queeg-like with every passing hour, has convinced what passes for black leadership in this city that it's all about his being the city's first black chief. Therefore, anyone who complains about the horrendous crime rate under his regime is a racist. His approach to reforming the department? Two biggies: Rearrange the command structure so that Internal Affairs is more directly under his personal control and--my personal favorite--stop using the county's forensic laboratory.
Right now the police department sends all of its wallboard to the county's forensic lab for testing. Under the deal Bolton wants, a private lab would do the testing and would report only to Bolton. That's to protect the police department from racist chemists who try to come up with test results showing that perfectly good cocaine is: 1) wallboard, or 2) ground-up billiard parlor chalk.
But before I heap it all on the chief, I still see enough blame left here to go around. We have the very public instance earlier in the year when Dallas police officers stormed the city council chambers like a bunch of pissed-off Gomers from Frisco, making a scene because they didn't get a huge enough pay raise. Who was the hero in that picture?
And before I stop slinging blame, might I suggest, compadre, that you and I go take a gaze in the mirror? Isn't it possible that what this city needs, in addition to a competent police chief and cops with better manners, is a big fat tax hike to pay for more cops, better salaries for cops, more training and better equipment?
I put calls in to the recent chairpersons of the council's public safety committee. I didn't call the chief, because what am I going to ask him at this point? "Is it true you're scary-paranoid?" Most of them did not call me back, but this is their hiatus, and they are supposed to be on vacation.
I did talk to Councilwoman Elba Garcia, who has only just now been appointed chair of the public safety committee. She conceded that there is talk going on between the scattered council members over the horrible new numbers.
Garcia had interesting things to say about what approaches the council might take. She said she will wait to hear more of what her peers on the council are thinking, but right now she is leaning toward bringing in an independent outside entity to examine the Dallas Police Department from top to bottom.
"One of the first things we have to do is know what are our strengths and what are our deficiencies, and that is only going to be done by an efficiency study," Garcia said.
"Of course, people are going to say, 'Golly, once you open that can of worms, anything can happen.' Sure. We are going to find out what's really reallywrong with our police department, right? But at the same time, if you want people's confidence, you have to open the Pandora's box and clean it out."
Mayor Miller, on vacation in California, took as her beach book Leadership by Rudolph Giuliani and Ken Kurson. She clearly has been focusing on the issue of crime and cops and already has a page in mind to borrow from Giuliani's book. As soon as she gets back she wants to set up weekly accountability meetings in which the chief and his top command will be asked what has happened that week with crime and what they plan to do about it. She says it worked in New York.
"According to the book, if you look in Appendix A, it shows, I think, a 57 percent decrease in crime when Giuliani instituted the system, and I thought to myself, 'We need to do a weekly meeting.' So the first week when I get back in August, we have a meeting set up with several council members and the chief, and we're going to put together this system."
A person who has been trying to stir the crime-rate issue in Dallas is Calie Stephens, editor of a Web page called www.dallascrime.com (well worth visiting). We spoke the other day, and he made an excellent point: There probably isn't anything City Hall could do to enhance the city's tax base that would be as effective as bringing down the crime rate. If crime and criminality were ever containerized in identifiable parts of town, those days are long gone. We see it spilling and spreading and oozing everywhere.