City Hall

Cop Associations, National Unions Turn Up Heat on Dallas Chief Brown

Dallas Police Chief David Brown's critics, it seems, are beginning to smell blood in the water. After a week that's seen Dallas City Council members singled out by the mayor for having a meeting to discuss Brown's performance with the city manager and Brown firing back at his critics during a committee briefing about crime statistics, Dallas' two biggest police associations gathered a crowd — and some friends from outside the city — to further air their grievances with Brown Wednesday afternoon.

"We are not black, brown, white, woman or man," Rochelle Bilal, the vice chair of the National Black Police Officers' Association said. "Today, we are one. The Dallas Police Department is broken and this starts at the top."

Brown was lambasted, by Bilal, by Richard Todd, the president of the Dallas chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police and by the man who could easily be called Brown's nemesis, Dallas Police Association President Ron Pinkston, for what they called failures in leadership. Call response times from DPD are slow, they argued, because DPD doesn't have enough patrol officers. When officers arrive late to the scene of crimes — a four-plus hour response time to a rape was repeatedly cited — residents are so frustrated that they talk back to officers, intensifying what the group criticizing Brown called an anti-police climate and killing morale in the department.

"[The police associations] have asked for more body cameras, wanted more officers on the street and fewer sitting behind a desk," Pinkston said. "Unfortunately the chief has been unwilling to listen and unwilling to work with the men and women under his command," Pinkston said.

Union representatives called Brown vindictive, and said the reason it was just leaders speaking was because rank-and-file officers are subject to reprisal when they speak out. Officers — unnamed by the union heads in order to, they said, prevent further consequences — have been punished by Brown when they are critical of his leadership. 

"We know that to be effective in the fight against crime, the rank-and-file officers must have the support of the command staff within their department," Bilal said.

Pinkston called on City Manager A.C. Gonzalez to "make the changes that need to be made" to improve DPD's leadership. Brown's decisions this week to back improved officer pay and to return 100 officers to patrol are too little, too late in the eyes of his critics. The associations, they said, have been asking for these things for years.

Wednesday's press conference was preceded by the release of a new morale survey by the DPA, which, as the association's morale surveys have throughout the recent past, sucked.

Of the 1,454 officers who responded to the survey, 67 percent felt that they were not being allowed to perform their duties in the way Dallas residents expect.  Eighty-one percent said they didn't believe they had the support of command staff and 40 percent said their morale was as low as it's ever been.

As he has when he's faced attacks from Pinkston and the associations in the past, Brown told multiple media outlets Wednesday that the criticism is just something that comes with the job.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young