The Black Police Association of Greater Dallas, which represents the area's black police officers, is waging a serious PR campaign against The Dallas Morning News and journalist Tanya Eiserer, a longtime criminal justice reporter at the paper. And while they're at it, the association is taking swipes at some fellow officers.
Although the two sides dispute the severity and the exact circumstances, the newspaper and the BPA agree that Eiserer used the words "cocksucker" and "asshole" outside Dallas Police Chief David Brown's office after being denied what she thought was supposed to be an exclusive interview. But while The News says Eiserer was cursing out of frustration -- and not directing it at anyone in particular -- the BPA says she was swearing about Chief Brown.
"Ms. Eiserer's antics are symptomatic of a pernicious spirit troubling the soul of America," the BPA writes in a press release. "Black leadership in America is under disproportionate scrutiny and assault by neo-conservatives, state righters, and uncouth birthers. The Black Police Association of Greater Dallas, Incorporated will not tolerate the local media aiding and abetting these assaults. The Black Police Association of Greater Dallas understands that this event is a carryover of the general disrespect for Black leadership in the Dallas Police Department by union officials -- both Anglo and those with dual consciousness."
They're calling for Eiserer to be fired. They also want "mandatory and documented anti-racism training" for all News reporters, executives and staff, and for Dallas's Only Daily to hire "representative numbers" of black, Asian and Hispanic reporters. It also called for the firing or discipline of any police personnel who knew about the event and "failed to act appropriately," and for the discipline of Glenn White, president of the Dallas Police Association, "for his public statements that fueled discord within the ranks of the Dallas Police Department."
Preston Gilstrap, president of the BPA, tells Unfair Park that Eiserer "referenced the chief as an 'asshole' and a 'cocksucker' in his office complex with other journalists there and some of his staff." Brown himself had already left the room.
Gilstrap claims Eiserer approached Brown for an exclusive story about his plan to put senior officers back on street patrol for two weeks every six months. More precisely, she wanted to talk about Glenn White's reaction to the plan, which White previously called "foolish" and "the stupidest thing that [Brown] could do," according to WFAA. White also criticized the department last year for providing police escorts for Chief Brown's son's funeral after he shot and killed a man in Lancaster, then a responding police officer, before dying himself in a gunfight with the cops.
Eiserer, Gilstrap told us, "wanted an exclusive. ... [Brown] did not afford her one, and he walked into the other portion of [his office] compound. That's when she went into this profane tirade."
Gilstrap also criticized White for his public questioning of Brown.
"I've been on the police department for 40 years and been involved in association business for 36," said Gilstrap, a sergeant. "I've never heard an association or a union leader speak this way about the chief. They might do it in their business meetings or their board meetings, but never on TV. These people work at the pleasure of the chief. I've never seen this level of disrespect."
White's role in the story is a window into ongoing discord among the city's police associations, which include the Fraternal Order of Police, the Lieutenant's Union, the Dallas Latino Peace Officers Association, the BPA and the DPA, the largest. We've heard from several officers that there's dissatisfaction among the ranks with Brown, and that the FOP is debating a vote of no confidence against him.
Michael Walton, the FOP's president, didn't immediately return a phone call for comment, but he too is catching fire from the BPA. Walton is also black, and Gilstrap criticized him for not supporting Brown, and for not attending weekly meetings Brown has set up with the five police organizations. Gilstrap claims that no one from the DPA or the FOP, the two largest associations, have ever attended the meetings.
Gilstrap called Walton "a child of the institution" and suggested he has been "co-opted" by a broader culture within the Dallas Police, one that encourages disrespect of Brown's leadership.
"He is a carrier of double consciousness," Gilstrap said, referring to the W.E.B. DuBois concept of African-Americans who assimilate society's racist attitudes about black people into their own self-image.
As for reporter Eiserer, The News addressed the controversy in a brief, unbylined article last night, calling the incident at Brown's office "the result of apparent confusion over media arrangements." Eiserer referred our call to editor Bob Mong, who told us that Eiserer showed up for the meeting with the understanding that she and another News reporter were getting an exclusive, one-on-one interview with the chief. Although Eiserer's remarks weren't directed at the chief, she still regrets them.
"She apologized to the department over Labor Day weekend," Mong said. "I know she's really sorry she lost her composure. I think she was frustrated. ... I don't think she was speaking to anybody in particular. She knows her remarks were inappropriate and unprofessional. I know she feels very badly."
Mong said Eiserer only realized the meeting was actually an "all-in" press conference when she got to Brown's office. She got frustrated, and turned around to leave.
And then, we asked, she said "asshole, cocksucker," right?
"Yeah, not that way exactly," Mong said, sounding a little abashed. "She said one and then walked a few steps and said the other. Not to be too graphic."
Referring to the BPA's other demands, Mong said the paper was making an effort to hire more minorities as a way to address "the growing racial and ethnic diversity in the market."
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"We've tried very hard to diversify our staff. You can always do better. Just as I'm sure
the Observer can," he said.
Mong said Gilstrap called him yesterday to let him know that the Black Police Association would be holding the press conference. But he was "surprised," he said, that it was being described as a potentially racist incident.
"My feeling it was not a racial comment," he said. "It was not racially motivated."