There are four major police associations in Dallas, each with its own slice of the force and its own interests. The Dallas Police Association is the biggest and oldest in Dallas, around since 1959. The Dallas Fraternal Order of Police is part of a nationwide organization that represents more than 300,000 officers.
The Black Police Association of Greater Dallas began in 1975, in response to black officers being treated unfairly and a lack of blacks being hired on the force, association president Cletus Judge told Unfair Park. Since then, the association has advocated for the rights of black officers. The Dallas Latino Peace Officers started under similar circumstances and has a similar mission.
But now Police Chief David Brown wants these four separate organizations to become one.
"It's time for Dallas to have one union representing all of our officers," Brown told the News. "The time for our unions to be segregated around race is long passed."
It's a bit of a pipe dream. In an interview, Brown acknowledged that he can't force the groups to consolidate, but he can use his "bully pulpit" to possibly get the ball rolling, which is why he spoke to The Dallas Morning News in the first place.
The associations -- not traditional unions, because they exist in Texas -- agree on 95 percent of the issues they face, fraternal order president Richard Todd told Unfair Park. When it comes to benefits and lowering insurance premiums, for example, the police force is unified.
However, when he deals with the unions, Brown told us, it always starts and ends with race. He said he gets frustrated refereeing the four groups' infighting and that dealing with the four separate groups is not manageable. Sometimes he has four meetings, with four different perspectives on the same subject, he said.
But those perspectives need to be heard, especially when they belong to minority officers, Judge, of the Black Police Association, told Unfair Park. Besides, it's working, he said. Under Brown, who is black, the DPD has seen an increase in diversity in, among others, the helicopter unit, the traffic unit and Internal Affairs since Brown started, Judge told us. There are still inequalities to address, such as unfair treatment when it comes to discipline.
Judge also wonders how the leadership of such a body would be elected. White officers outnumber black officers, he told us, and he worries black officers wouldn't have a voice. But a set number of representatives from each union to an overall body might be a solution, he said.
Dallas Latino Peace Officers Association spokesman Robert Arredondo told us there's another reason to have minority police unions, other than to advocate on the behalf of minority officers. In a minority community, he said, you have to have people who kids look up to. For example, if teenagers see police officers who look like they do, the seeds of a career in law enforcement could be planted.
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Although Dallas Police Association president Ron Pinkston thinks one union with one voice is the best thing for officers, he told Unfair Park he doesn't think Brown is sincere in his wish for a single union.
Pinkston said he approached Brown two years ago and told him he wanted to unite the four organizations, but Brown told the union president, "Good luck." Now, Pinkston told us, Brown is trying to spin the media into making him look like a unifier when he's actually no such thing.
"He's afraid if there was one voice for officers about how he's handling the department that wouldn't be positive for him," he said.
Send your story tips to the author, Sky Chadde.