Oh, come on, Chief Brown. Please. You've been great so far. Don't go all Bolton on us.
Earlier this week the Black Police Association of Greater Dallas threw in with former Dallas city council member Diane Ragsdale and some other black community leaders to do a serious race-card attack on veteran Dallas Morning News police reporter Tanya Eiserer.
They held a press conference to say Eiserer was a racist because she muttered the words "cocksucker" and "asshole" one day at police headquarters. Not at Police Chief David Brown. He wasn't there. But the people at the press conference said she wouldn't have said those words at police headquarters if a white man had been the chief of police.
Everybody I know in the business who has ever worked the police beat is laughing out loud at that crap. I talked to a guy who used to be in the police department under a white chief. He said reporters did lots worse than just curse at him. He recalled an old police reporter coming to his desk to chew him out: the reporter picked up his ashtray and dumped it all over his desk.
So now the guy's an asshole. He's a cocksucker. And he's got cigarette butts all over his desk. That's the cop-shop, man. At least it used to be.
As Anna reported earlier this week, Eiserer has been working a story about senior police officers who are unhappy with Brown over a policy putting them back on street patrol every once in a while. I assume Eiserer has even better stuff coming, and the chief is trying to do a pre-emptive strike to knock her back from the story.
Brown kicked all this off himself by complaining about Eiserer on black radio. It's possible, I suppose, that the BPA and friends heard him on the radio and rallied to his defense on their own. I have calls in to both Chief Brown and Preston Gilstrap, who's apparently resigned as BPA president amidst all this; I haven't heard back yet. But it's hard to believe the BPA would have proceeded with the race-card press conference without Brown's approval, and the chief had to know about it. We got the press release midmorning Tuesday and promptly forwarded it to the department for comment. The chief had a 24-hour window to shut it down, and the group played their race card as planned.
I called Eiserer, who wouldn't talk to me on or off the record, except that when I did say, "You must have something pretty good," she did say, "I hope so."
That's the way this game is played. Brown sees Eiserer coming after him with a good story (meaning a bad story for Brown), and he tries to dirty her up a little in advance, hoping she won't be able to get the story into the paper.
That's all right as far as it goes. Maybe it's not right by Sunday School standards, but it's pretty much standard operating procedure in the real world. Brown is defending his regime from attack by a reporter. He's doing what he thinks he has to do. I get all that. Like I say, maybe not by Sunday School rules, but by street rules? No problem.
But not the race card thing. That just looks stupid.
So far The News has been a tad pusillanimous about the whole affair. They made her apologize. They say they've "disciplined" her. And I am told that her editors actually trooped over to Brown's office so he could scold them. That's weak. In the old days even a pissed-off mayor had to come to the newspaper office to make his case. City officials didn't summon. I just hope she gets her story out.
But here's what really bothers me. This kind of bogus paranoid race-carding is exactly how it started with Terrell Bolton, the city's first black police chief, fired in 2003 after four years on the job. He said everybody was picking on him because he was black, when he was actually just a terrible, terrible chief.
Brown, on the other hand, has been a good chief since he was hired in April 2010. He has navigated some very tough personal and political turmoil, and he has done it with great aplomb, head held high.
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His big mistake now is that he's circling his wagons with the wrong people. This specious attack on the News has everything to do with the problems of Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, currently under federal investigation for corruption. Price is big on accusing the media of racism for reporting on his woes. Before Brown circles up with him, he might want to reflect on the fact that Price's supporters have been holding anti-police prayer meetings. Which way does Brown pray on that one?
This is the wrong way to go, Chief. If you want to go toe-to-toe with Eiserer, do it, and good luck to you. I don't hold any particular brief for The Dallas Morning News. And believe me: Tanya Eiserer can handle herself herself in a street fight.
But don't do the whining-press-conference-race-card shit. It's just so ... sad. Pretty soon you'll be like him: sobbing on TV, living in a trailer and plotting your comeback.
You're better than that, man. Or at least everybody hopes you are.