Schutze

Law? What Law?

Page 2 of 3

"I explained to him the situation. I had already called Cost-Plus."

In lengthy documents from an internal affairs investigation that ensued, the police officers concede that they didn't know about the program, didn't believe Meeks and refused to make a call to find out if he was telling the truth.

"They refused to call 311 to find out if that program even existed," Meeks said. "They accused me of illegally dumping. They refused to call the [code compliance] sector, even though I had the cell phone number for the supervisor over that district. They refused to let me walk up to my house to get the paperwork."

Also not in dispute: Somewhere along in here Meeks got irritated.

"One of the officers asked me a question, and just as a natural occurrence, you know, you turn to respond to someone, and from having my hands on the hood of the car and turning to respond, my hands came off the hood of the car. So that happened I know at least twice, maybe three times.

"The second or third time, he [the police officer] got perturbed. 'I told you to put your hands on that car!' So he came over and handcuffed me."

Eventually, Meeks wound up under arrest, sitting in the backseat of a squad car for hours while the two arresting officers had a big cluster-cluck with some sergeants who came out as backup. Our tax dollars at work.

When it was all said and done, the gendarmes had to un-arrest Meeks, remove his shackles and send him home, of course, because he hadn't done anything for which he could conceivably be taken to jail. But they wrote him a ticket anyway for littering.

Meeks complained to the police department's internal affairs division. They did one of their typical year-long doctoral dissertations on it (many more tax dollars at work) in which they ultimately whitewashed the cops. And the police continued to press the littering charge, even though they knew eight ways to Sunday by now that Meeks did not litter.

Finally all of this got to the Dallas Citizens Police Review Board (DCPRB), where even the members who are normally pretty pro-cop said basically, hey, give this guy a break and drop this stupid charge.

DCPRB member Anne Carlson told me the board also wanted Deputy Chief Kyle W. Royster, chief of Southwest, to give Meeks a written apology. "I think we told [him] we wanted a letter of apology. It was bad from the very beginning."

Meeks says Royster never gave him a letter but did pull him aside after his appearance before the DCPRB and say verbally he was sorry about everything. The board also got Royster to agree that he would make sure all police officers in his division were familiar with the Cost-Plus program.

Yeah, that would be important.

I tried to call Royster for a week. He never called back. Finally when I sent him a fax, a lieutenant from Southwest called and left me a message saying Royster had just left to go to a conference and would be unable to talk for several days. Apparently it was a conference in a place where they don't have telephones. Hope he survives re-entry.

But here's the point. For months, in spite of their promise to the DCPRB, they never dropped the charge. Meeks had to hire a lawyer, and finally the charge went away.

See: This is not different from the fake-drug cases. They get a charge on you, they keep it, fake or not. Screw you. Screw the Dallas Citizens Police Review Board. Who cares about the law?

The one officer I was able to speak with was Sergeant Stephen Bishopp. He told me that to this day, in spite of Chief Royster's promise to the DCPRB, neither he nor anybody else he knew at Southwest had ever heard of Cost-Plus.

"Just talking about that Cost-Plus, even people who live in the city that work for us had never heard of that. I mean, I don't know, is it like from the store, this Cost-Plus, or is it a program called cost-plus?"

From the store. Funny guy. I said it was a program offered by the city's sanitation department.

"Really?"

"Yeah."

He said: "I don't know who puts up the signs in the city, but dumping a large load of shingles or whatever he was dumping right in front of a sign that says 'No Dumping,' I mean, program or no program, that still seems wrong to me. But like I said, I don't live in the city."

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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