Blame the Other Guys

A former DPD assistant chief over narcotics says she was made a patsy by the city

She wasn't the problem, the lawsuit claims. It was the lieutenants and sergeants below her who for months, years even, covered up how nasty things were in narcotics. Supervisors--all of them men--who should have reported to her, a 28-year veteran with no less a title than assistant chief of police, the deals and doings of cops on the streets. But the lieutenants and sergeants never did that. Yet they weren't the ones punished for the fake-drug scandal.

She was.

That, briefly, is the lawsuit of Dora Saucedo-Falls, once an assistant chief of police for the Dallas Police Department, now a lieutenant after her demotion last November. She's asking for $50,000 in damages and saying police Chief David Kunkle--a defendant in the suit--denied her the chance to clear her name because she's a woman.

Sexual discrimination charge notwithstanding, most of Saucedo-Falls' wrath in the suit is reserved for former police Chief Terrell Bolton and the men who served him. Saucedo-Falls says Bolton knew about the corruption in narcotics as early as 1999, the year he appointed her assistant chief over the division. But Bolton did nothing about it; he placed into power only officers who cloaked the increasingly alarming facts, the suit claims.

Officers such as John Ferguson. Bolton named Ferguson the deputy chief over narcotics shortly after Bolton's tenure began. For Saucedo-Falls, it was a strange choice. "Ferguson had been a Captain-Supervisor in the Narcotics Division in 1998 when a report critical of the Narcotics Division was presented to Internal Affairs," the lawsuit says. "Subsequent to this report, Ferguson was transferred by former Police Chief [Bennie] Click to head the Internal Affairs Division, whereupon Ferguson was permitted to 'investigate' and then ignore the 1998 report of Narcotics Division misconduct," the lawsuit says. (The Dallas Observer could not reach Ferguson, now retired, for comment. Nor could it reach Bolton.)

Saucedo-Falls says that's the way Ferguson worked under her, which is to say he didn't work under her, according to the lawsuit. Reading it, and an affidavit Saucedo-Falls filed in another suit for which she is not seeking damages--this one claiming DPD uses lousy confidential informants--a theme emerges: Dora Saucedo-Falls, victim of her environment.

The reason she couldn't properly oversee narcotics is because nobody--not Ferguson, not former narcotics division head John Martinez or former narcotics supervisors Bill Turnage or Jack Gouge--ever relayed findings of wrongdoing to her. "I was totally dependent on those under my supervision to report problems to me," Saucedo-Falls says in the affidavit. "From November of 1999 until November 30, 2001, I received no such report."

The reason she couldn't move anyone out of narcotics--and she wanted to move out Gouge--was because Chief Bolton wouldn't allow it. "Bolton refused to accept my recommendations regarding the assignment and/or transfer of personnel to and from the Narcotics Division," the affidavit says. The lawsuit claims that on December 5, 2001, Saucedo-Falls tried to remove five officers from narcotics tied to the fake-drug scandal, in which police informants framed dozens of innocents by sticking them with phony "cocaine." "Bolton adamantly and repeatedly refused to remove any suspected officer from the Narcotics Division," the suit says. (E. Leon Carter, the attorney defending Chief Kunkle and the city of Dallas, says in the suit that he's without information to confirm or deny the December 5 allegation.)

Finally, the reason Saucedo-Falls struggled with the culture of narcotics was because she had never before worked there, and Bolton "refused to authorize training for me in the management of narcotics," she says, even after she went to Bolton with "opportunities for me to attend training schools...without cost to the city." In perhaps the ultimate slight, Saucedo-Falls once asked Bolton if she could receive training at a narcotics conference; he denied her but allowed Bill Turnage, a lieutenant, to go. He then told her to process the paperwork for Turnage's training, according to the affidavit.

What's believable here is, of course, debatable. And there isn't a whole lot of debating right now. Carter declined to comment. So did Kunkle. The supervisors who were to report to Saucedo-Falls are retired; DPD's media relations team says it doesn't keep information for retired officers; and efforts by the Observer to reach Martinez, Gouge and Turnage were unsuccessful. This leaves Saucedo-Falls' attorney, Doug Larson, who says everyone but his client is "as guilty as shit," and Saucedo-Falls herself. In the affidavit, she says the lieutenants and sergeants below her were so evasive with information, she didn't know of the 1998 in-house report critical of narcotics until the famed "Fake Drug Report" mentioned it in October 2004, one month before Saucedo-Falls' demotion.

The Fake Drug Report did her in. It cited a deposition she gave in which she admitted to never briefing Chief Bolton of the corruption in narcotics. Saucedo-Falls says, in her affidavit, that she didn't need to brief him; he knew of the corruption; he worked to cover it up. But in the deposition before lawyers, she couldn't give her full answer. "I was instructed by Assistant City Attorney Jason Schuette to answer only the questions that I was asked and to not elaborate or explain my answers," she says in the affidavit. "I am now aware that the city attorney was not representing my individual best interests, but he was only looking out for the best interests of his client, the city of Dallas." Schuette (of course) declined to comment.

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