The Strong Arm of the Law

The stakes are low in Constable Mike Dupree's re-election campaign--so are the blows

Life in Dallas politics can be nasty, brutish and short when ambition, outrageous rumors and bitter rivalries turn a low-key election into primordial combat. But even in this uncivilized context, Karl Smith was shocked to find a police report dropped off at his Oak Cliff home that detailed a charge of sexual assault involving Constable Mike Dupree and a child. Smith has a sign in his yard supporting the constable's re-election.

Mike Dupree is a balding, 49-year-old man with a tall, trim build whose only concession to middle age is a slight paunch. He is often referred to as openly gay, a lazy descriptor that suggests the constable is Elton John with a badge. In fact, Dupree seems to treat his sexuality the way any straight man would, as neither a defining characteristic nor source of shame. He does admit the obvious: Being a gay man in Texas law enforcement is difficult even if you look, act and talk like everyone else.

Dupree speaks every word calmly and deliberately, able to discuss traumatic events and scandalous accusations as if he were talking about the most recent episode of Two and a Half Men. Judging by his tone of voice as he discusses that doctored police report, he seems to have endured a silly prank, not an assault on his character. But his words, while delivered gently, leave little room for misinterpretation.

Mark Graham
Mr. Clean: Jaime Cortes, Mike Dupree's opponent, top, 
says he's not running a smear campaign.
Mark Graham
Mr. Clean: Jaime Cortes, Mike Dupree's opponent, top, says he's not running a smear campaign.

Dupree says, with scant evidence, that his opponent Jaime Cortes is behind the distribution of the false report, which has popped up throughout his precinct. He also claims that Cortes has echoed the false accusations in the document in a desperate shot at winning the election. Cortes unequivocally denies having anything to do with the report or spreading malicious rumors. Instead, he says again and again, this race is about Dupree's job performance. He never mentions that the police report that landed at Karl Smith's door stems from actual events.

In the early morning of May 24, 2002, just weeks after Dupree emerged from a hard-fought re-election campaign that saw him beat Cortes in Round 1 of their series, the constable was taken away from his Oak Cliff apartment in handcuffs after his partner claimed that he had been sexually assaulted. The younger man, who worked at an Italian restaurant, said that he awoke to find Dupree giving him a blowjob without his consent.

It was around 5 a.m. when Dallas police hauled Dupree, who himself has all the powers of a cop and more, into the back of a squad car and drove him to the county jail. They were walking him to the booking area when one officer's phone rang. Dupree couldn't tell what was said, but it was obvious the conversation centered on his arrest. After the call, the officer led him into an office instead of the booking area. There Dupree waited for about half an hour until an officer came in and told him he was free to go. Dupree's partner, then in his late 20s, would later say that he made up the story of the sexual assault after he had too much to drink, which provoked a fight with Dupree about the young man's plans to go to Mexico. He threatened Dupree, saying that he could ruin his career. The constable told him to go ahead and try. He did.

Dupree's arrest never made headlines. After a meeting with his staff the next day to discuss what happened, he broke up with his partner and looked to move on with his life. But in the gossipy world of law enforcement and among Dupree's cast of enemies, the constable's quick round-trip visit to jail elicited all sorts of conspiracy theories. At least some thought that Dupree leveraged his rank for a get-out-of-jail-free card, although his enemies don't know, or say they don't know, that his ex has confessed that he fabricated his destructive story.

Nearly a year to the date he was hauled off to jail, Dupree ordered the arrest of a man for impersonating an officer. The man was a part of a fringe group called the Republic of Texas, a group that asserts the political independence of Texas from the United States. In retaliation, the group posted the police report online, except it was doctored to indicate that the complainant was a child.

Amid a close election campaign, that same doctored report has supposedly surfaced at various locations, including a bathroom stall at a local Burger King and, most recently, Karl Smith's Oak Cliff home. Dupree says Smith found the report shortly after Cortes came to his house asking for his vote. But Smith contradicts Dupree somewhat, saying that Cortes came weeks before that. The constable later visited Smith's house and told him the report was the work of the Republic of Texas and, by the way, one of their members is Jaime Cortes. There is no evidence that's even remotely true.

"It's an Anglo-American group, and I don't fit that bill," says Cortes, who laughed when asked if he belonged to the Republic of Texas.

If Michael Dupree is less a sinner than a man sinned against, it's not by much. The Oak Cliff-area constable, who had an undistinguished career in law enforcement before taking office, is as much of a pit bull as his many detractors, offering outrageous claims against his enemies that seem like they came from a treatment for a Walker: Texas Ranger spinoff. At various times in recent weeks, Dupree has claimed that the wife of an ex-friend complained to him that she was being pimped on the streets of South Dallas. He says the FBI investigated the deputies who worked for his predecessor for allegedly ferrying drugs outside the county in their patrol cars. He says one of the two deputies who have sued him for wrongful termination had her cell phone end up on a dead body in Grand Prairie, while the other brutally whipped a man while serving a civil warrant.

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