By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
This is a city that has had a hard time resolving its racial issues. I don't know if the police department is any worse than other institutions in the city in that regard, but it has serious racial problems. Bolton was the city's first black chief. If he intended to command, he probably did need to make some bold first moves.
But he did it hard.
I talked to some of the folks who were there when it happened. He called a group meeting of all the people he was busting. They had no idea what was coming. A couple of them thought they were up for commendations. Bolton read them a prepared text and then told them there were brown envelopes outside with their new assignments. He left the room, and they argued about what had happened until they realized they were all being busted.
Then they staggered out into the corridor, and there was Bolton, laughing and slapping with the crowd of people who were getting their jobs.
And I still say he was within his rights. I've never been a big fan of touchy-feely firings myself. I know from still-painful personal experience that the words I never again want to hear coming from a boss' lips are, "Jim, we want you to know that this newspaper appreciates the fine contribution you have made here over the years..."
That's worse. If it's all the same to you, I would prefer: "Schutze, grab your coffee mug and run. The Pinkertons are coming."
Straight up, no chaser. Don't put any cherries or paper parasols in my poison, thank you.
But the problem now with Bolton is all this stuff. This injured little boy routine. Had to go to work with a sore throat. Coupled with the God complex. Coupled with the fact that for months before the ax finally fell he was hinting that the city would dissolve in racial chaos if anybody touched his job. Coupled with the bawling. I mean, I'm not really a military type, but I do believe there was a reason General Patton didn't get up in front of the 6th Armored in England in 1944 and sob. I don't know if we'd be speaking German now, but the French might be.
The thing is, you live by the sword, you die by the sword. He was the chief. He had to fire people. Maybe he had to do it hard. That was really his decision. The courts finally ruled that he was within his rights.
But the sword turns. It happens.
All right, I am checking the time, believe me, and according to my watch, we are within minutes of being delivered from this sulphurous agony. Now Bolton and his lawyer have to do the big wrap-up. Bolton says: "We didn't come here today for a handout. I didn't come here to ask anything, other than to get my name back."
That should be easy. All rise! On the count of three: "YOUR NAME IS TERRELL BOLTON!"
Ah, but if that were the prize, what would the lawyer be doing here? Robert Hinton follows his client to the lectern and trots out a theory he has been pitching around town for a couple of weeks, that the city's civil service rules allow the city manager to demote the chief but not fire him. By the rules, Hinton says, Bolton should have been demoted to his last civil service rank.
If my memory serves, that would make Bolton, who was quickly double-promoted, a sergeant.
Hinton argues to the council that by firing him instead of demoting him, the city has injured him. And then the punch line for the day: "I invite the city attorney to please contact me within 10 days of today to negotiate some sort of solution to the problems that were caused by the illegal acts that Mr. Benavides did in firing him without demoting him."
So how was it going to go down, under Mr. Hinton's rules? The former police chief was going to lurk around as a sergeant for a few years in order to make it to some pension date? Talk about damage to his reputation! In fact, most of the damage here has been self-inflicted, and this smarmy hearing is a case in point.
Mr. Bolton, you gutted those guys with a cold hand. But the battle turned, and Mr. Benavides gutted you with a cold hand. Show no mercy. Claim no mercy. You were supposed to know that.
Well, there's one mercy left in heaven: This hearing is finally over, and I'm ready for my root canal.