Color Code

Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle's honeymoon is about to end, if white, black and Latino officers have anything to say about it

But Belton's promotion was widely derided by white cops as an example of Bolton's cronyism. They say his 17 recorded traffic accidents while on duty, eight of which were ruled preventable, should alone prove he was unfit for command.

To the surprise of many white officers, Belton was not one of those demoted by Chief Kunkle last month, though Belton was moved to a less prestigious post, heading up the Communications/Detention Services Section.

Black officers, however, say that regardless of Kunkle's take on Belton's ability, it was best he not be demoted. "Zackary Belton was great in terms of promoting diversity, but he was given a reduction in prestige," Glover says. "I can guarantee you, had he been demoted, there would have been a tremendous uproar from black officers and leaders in the black community. Tremendous."

The Reverend L. Charles Stovall, head of Unified Organizations for Justice, says he's cautiously optimistic that Chief Kunkle will work toward progressive change in the way DPD views policing in Southern Dallas.
Mark Graham
The Reverend L. Charles Stovall, head of Unified Organizations for Justice, says he's cautiously optimistic that Chief Kunkle will work toward progressive change in the way DPD views policing in Southern Dallas.
George Aranda, head of the Latino Peace Officers Association, criticized Kunkle for banning the neck hold.
Mark Graham
George Aranda, head of the Latino Peace Officers Association, criticized Kunkle for banning the neck hold.

Kunkle says he can't worry about trying to figure out who was promoted fairly and who wasn't. ("You can never answer that question," he says.) He says all he can do is try to create processes that are valid and fair.

Kunkle is already making changes he hopes will have a positive effect on departmental race relations. He has put a white officer in charge of a "black" substation, Southeast, and a black officer in charge in a "white" substation, Northwest. Like Chief Click before him, he has assigned a black officer to oversee Internal Affairs in part to address complaints about disparate discipline among black officers. Complaints that don't, at this point, seem close to going away.

The issue of disparate discipline in DPD, in which black officers are disciplined more harshly and in greater proportion than white officers, was written about in depth by Dallas Observer writer Miriam Rozen in February 2000. Rozen showed that far more complaints were brought against black officers, and the punishments meted out were more severe than against white officers.

"Exactly," says one white sergeant. "You're paying the price for lowering the standards 10 years ago. And it so happens that a lot of bad black cops got in when you did that. And they end up with disciplinary actions taken against them. Not a surprise."

Chief Kunkle says he's keenly aware that he'll be judged on how his department disciplines troops--and this, more than any other issue, drove a wedge between the TPOA and Chief Click. "It created long-term hostility," Kunkle says, "and I don't think it was an issue the organization could ever get beyond with him."

Glover, who was head of the TPOA for 10 years before stepping down in January, agrees. "Click lasted six years because we were fooled," he says. "Then we said hold on. We make up 18 percent of the department, but we get over 50 percent of the discipline? So my point is, Chief Kunkle will get the respect, the same leeway, initially. But if he does not build on it, then we will do the same thing we did to Chief Click. We're going to try our best to get the community roused, alert city officials, get all those forces aligned against him."

Glover says the TPOA is very concerned about stories they're hearing about a new wave of disparate discipline, and it's something the organization is monitoring keenly.

Kunkle says he respects the TPOA and all police organizations, but adds that they are beholden only to their constituency, while he is accountable to the entire city.

"I've got one of the most accountable jobs around," he says. "I know I'm judged every day. When I took this job, I decided I would do the right things for the right reasons. That's all I can do."

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