On Your Watch

Those are scary words for Dallas' top cops

Saucedo-Falls told the investigative panel that she still did not learn any details of the allegations, because on hearing from Martinez there was some kind of an issue, she ordered Martinez to go tell then-police Chief Terrell Bolton about it. And she didn't ask to go along.

"Even though the allegations involved personnel under her command," the fake-drugs report says, "she demonstrated a reluctance to investigate matters as she failed to inquire into the specifics of the allegations and did not accompany Deputy Chief Martinez to brief Chief Bolton."

Sweet. So some day when they come along with that famous investigative question--"What did you know, and when did you know it?"--you can honestly say, "I didn't know anything. Ever. Talk to Chief Martinez."

Police Chief David Kunkle demoted two top cops, not for what they did but for what they failed to do.
Mark Graham
Police Chief David Kunkle demoted two top cops, not for what they did but for what they failed to do.

By removing her from her position--and these are my words and interpretation, not his--Chief Kunkle was saying that any top manager with an excuse that good deserves not to be a top manager anymore.

I think that's a doctrine that could really wreak havoc at City Hall, if it were generally and forcefully applied: All personnel with really good excuses for what took place today please report immediately to the out-placement bureau in human resources. Boy, they'd be linin' up all the way down the hall.

Of the two top cops, Martinez is the more difficult case, because he came to narcotics after the fake-drugs scandal was well under way. In fact, the fake-drugs report reveals something that hasn't gained a lot of attention yet--that the bones of the fake-drugs scandal, the basic behaviors that made it possible, may go back at least as far as the early 1990s under the regime of former Chief William Rathburn, and probably go back even further.

Hart and Levario, the fake-drugs investigators, dug out of the department a heretofore secret report on possible misconduct in the narcotics unit dated June 18, 1992. Amazingly, many of the same sloppy practices dealing with the use and payment of confidential informants--almost a carbon copy of findings in the 2001 fake-drugs scandal--were turned up by investigators in 1992.

And this: Many of the same cops working in narcotics in 1992 were still there during the 2001 scandal.

Martinez tried to do something, sort of. When he learned that one group of confidential informants was involved in all of the fake-drugs cases, he ordered the narcotics officers under his command to stop using them. Here's the problem: They defied him.

He ordered them to stop using the bad snitches. They kept using the bad snitches. He found out they were defying him. Nothing happened.

He has a story about why nothing happened. He told the investigators that by the time he was really absolutely sure they were still using the bad snitches, the particular lieutenant he had ordered not to use them had been promoted to a rank equal to Martinez. So at that point Martinez couldn't tell the guy what to do.

Pretty weak.

And here's the reality that emerges from all of this: There was an entrenched cadre of cops in narcotics, some of whom had developed their own way of doing things over the years. Not everybody in narcotics by any means. Another thing that emerges from the fake-drugs report is that there was another cadre of cops in narcotics who were straight, who went by the book and did what was right. That's a theme in almost all of the problems the department has suffered in the last few years: Somewhere in there, out of the limelight and quietly laboring away, there has always been a core of decent, honest cops with integrity who did what they were supposed to do, even if nobody was watching them.

But you had the loosey-goosey guys, too. And they had friends. And it went up the ladder. Maybe all the way up.

So if you, John Martinez, come in late in the day when the game is already under way, it will take a whole lot of fortitude to blow the whistle. You have to assume you may be the one taking the bullet, not the bad guys, and that's a tough chance to take.

Not an easy thing. You can look at my business, at all the plagiarism and lying scandals that have rocked major newspapers in recent years: There are journalists whose excuses are so good they could be made into major motion pictures.

The "on your watch" rule is a tough one. That roar you hear in the distance is the glory and the terror of a whole new day dawning at the Dallas P.D.

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