Union Suit

Plus: The Next Wave; Strand of Evidence

Union Suit
A lawsuit targets a Dallas Police Association leader

According to people close to the lawsuit, the cover-up goes straight to the top: to the police chief's office and then the mayor's.

The alleged cover-up involves an influential cop--Eddie Crawford, vice president of the Dallas Police Association, the largest union within the Dallas Police Department--taking taxpayers' money when he shouldn't have four and five years ago and no one, not the assistant chiefs, not the chief of police or the acting chief of police, ever reprimanding Crawford for it, though everyone knew of it, a lawsuit filed by one former and four current officers claims.

One of the lawsuit's plaintiffs, Lee Bush, a former DPD sergeant, says that Mayor Laura Miller has known about Crawford's actions for more than a year but didn't act.

The lawsuit Bush and four current DPD police officers have filed claims the five plaintiffs faced discrimination and racism from Crawford, former police Chief Terrell Bolton, former acting Chief Randy Hampton and other police officers. The plaintiffs--two of them black, two white and one Hispanic--seek $400,000 total in damages. The claims that Crawford took city money he shouldn't have are a sidelight included in their lawsuit. Still, what exactly do the plaintiffs claim Crawford did?

"He was double-dipping," says Bush, who was Crawford's supervisor four years ago.

Crawford, as vice president of the Dallas Police Association, is encouraged to attend the organization's monthly meetings. But before attending any meeting, Crawford must first receive approved leave from his DPD supervisor, which, for a time, was Bush, who retired in August. Asking for, say, two hours of leave to attend a DPA meeting means not getting paid by DPD for those two hours. DPA awards Crawford a $500 stipend every month to make up for the missed pay.

The claim against Crawford is that for months at a time, years even, he didn't ask Bush or any other supervisor for leave, so while on association business, Crawford was also getting paid by the city.

The Dallas Observer has received internal police documents that show Crawford's name absent many times from the department's approved leave list on the same days he attended an association meeting. In fact, from September 2000 to July 2001, Crawford attended 10 DPA meetings. For six of them, his name was not on the department's approved leave list.

Bob Gorsky, the Dallas Police Association's lawyer, reviewed the documents and scoffed at them.

Gorsky says that any approved leave list is a "work in progress." Throughout the day, leave is approved and names are added to the list. "All that your document says is that at that point in time here is the roster for the approved leave for the day," Gorsky says.

But according to city code, police officers conducting association business on department time are to notify their department supervisor "at least 24 hours in advance," which means Crawford should have had approved leave from his supervisor by at least the afternoon before.

Bush, who became Crawford's supervisor in February 2001, says there were many instances when Crawford didn't get the leave. But then, Bush and Crawford never got along. In 1999, Bush, who's black, won a discrimination lawsuit after the police department three times refused to promote him to sergeant. When he moved to the Northwest bureau in 2001 and became Crawford's supervisor, Crawford thought Bush had gained the post only because he had cried racism, Bush says. Crawford, through city attorney Janice Moss, declined to comment. Moss directed all questions to her client's answer to the lawsuit. There, Crawford denies resenting Bush.

On the morning of September 19, 2001, Crawford tried to enter Bush's office without permission, the lawsuit claims. Once Crawford noticed Officer Shawn Wash, an African-American, watching him, Crawford withdrew his keys and walked away, according to court documents. Wash wrote a memo to Bush, as did Kevin Ellis, a white officer who didn't see the alleged break-in attempt but heard of it. (Wash and Ellis are listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit alongside Bush, as is Ellis' partner Steve Fuentes and another officer, Tom Clayton, a Caucasian.)

Bush in turn wrote a memo to Ron Waldrop, the deputy chief over the Internal Affairs Division. (Crawford, in the lawsuit, denies attempting to enter the office.) Three and a half years later, Bush says, nothing has come of that investigation, nor a subsequent one into Bush's allegation that Crawford didn't get approved leave before attending DPA meetings.

Nothing, that is, but trouble.

The five plaintiffs are a racially disparate group. Their lawyer, Douglas Larson, says they were discriminated against because they thought Bush was a decent man and a good cop. Yet all five went through hard times for sticking behind Bush. They were denied overtime and faced frivolous misconduct charges, according to the lawsuit.

The city contends that all claims of discrimination in the workplace are without merit.

Yet Bush will not concede. "I filed several complaints [on Crawford]. With internal affairs. With public integrity. This went on for years...up and down the chain of commands...They've bounced around the complaints. Some of the chiefs don't want to investigate."

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