Remind Me Again Why Dallas Has Separate Police Unions Divided by Race

The bigger police unions in Dallas are criticizing the president of the Dallas black police union for sucking up to the chief of police, who is black. So, wait. I’m from Detroit. There’s a lot of stuff I don’t get. Before we get into the stuff about sucking up, remind me again: Why is it we have a black police union?

Of course, I’m just pretending not to get it, because I’ve been here for about 100 years, and I know all about our Dallas police unions (excuse me, not unions, associations, but, you know, unions). I know, for example, that we also have a Latino police union (sorry, association).

I know that the two main police association unions, the Dallas Fraternal Order of Police and the Dallas Police Association, are basically the white police union associations, even though they’re going to get mad at me for saying it out loud. I think they think it’s a secret.

I thought I knew a thing or two about unions from my personal history. When I worked in the car factories as a young man, I belonged to the United Auto Workers. We definitely called it a union, partly out of pride but also because we wanted to distinguish ourselves from the Moose Lodge.

For one thing, we didn’t have a secret handshake where you have to pretend to have antlers. I don’t know if members of the many Dallas police clubs have secret handshakes or not, because how would I know?

It is called the United Autoworkers because it is united. Very. Or else. If you were new on the job, didn’t have your 90 days in and were still in the mandatory 90-day probationary period, the union could and did get people fired for saying racial crap in the lunchroom. They didn’t have a WUAW (white UAW), a BUAW or a LUAW.

If you look at police officers in Dallas, they obviously have a very different approach to collective organizing. So this week we see the white police officers unions (sorry) complaining that the head of the black police officers union is sucking up to the chief because he’s black. I haven’t heard yet what the Latino police officers union thinks.

Obviously police officers in Dallas believe the best way to be heard is to be as un-united as possible and divide themselves into as many separate unions as possible based on that most dis-uniting of all principles, race. That way Dallas police officers are able to speak with three voices instead of one. And come to think of it, why stop at three?

They could have another union for Asian-American police officers. In fact there could be a separate union for every ethnicity. Theoretically if there were one single Franco-American officer (that’s French), we could have the Franco-American Police Officers Association (FAPOA).

Wait. I hear you. You’re saying, “Why do they divide themselves by ethnicity and national origin?” You’re exactly right. There are lots of other ways they could be divided. Hey! Male and female, right? MPOA and FPOA.

What? You raise a good point. What if a white female officer has already joined the White Police Officers Association (WPOA), but she wants to join the Female Police Officers Association (FPOA)? Does she have to quit the WPOA?

Not necessarily. Dallas police officers could just as easily split up the WPOA into a WFPOA and a WMPOA, and then do the same for all the other ethnicities except the French (more on that another time).

What if a cop doesn’t want to self-identify by gender? Just keep the umbrella group, but call it the White People Police Officers Association (WPPOA).

This being a law enforcement population, the question is going to come up: How do you enforce it? What if a bunch of white female police officers decide they want to join the LMNAIPOA (Latino Male Not Athletically Inclined Police Officers Association)? Why would they do that? To be assholes.

One way to enforce the membership rules would be with fistfights. I’m sorry, I haven’t thought this part through very much. Gunfights? Absolutely not. Maybe spelling bees. No, that’s culturally chauvinistic. I’m trying to think of something with a competitive elimination element but happier, like Dancing with the Cops. I’m going to work on this part and get back to you.

Obviously Dallas police officers believe their best bet is to confront management with as divided a front as they can possibly manage, and then hit them with the tough issues: “You just like the Black Male Over 40 Years Old Police Officers Association (BMOFYOPOA) better because you’re B, M, O-F-Y-O and PO yourself.”

We might call this the middle school approach to collective bargaining. “Hey, no fair, Coach Jefferson, you always give more Gatorade to the black kids, just because you’re black.”

You know who really loves a system like that? Coach Jefferson. We all know the phrase “divide and conquer.” With the Dallas police officer approach, Coach Jefferson can skip right over the first two words.
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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze

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