Chief: Pub­lic, po­lice must co­op­er­ate

At fo­rum, top law en­force­ment of­fi­cials dis­cuss bridg­ing di­vide

The Dallas Morning News - - Metro & State - By NA­HEED RAJWANI Staff Writer nra­jwani@dal­las­

Dal­las can’t become a “city on a hill” un­less its faith lead­ers, politicians and law en­force­ment of­fi­cials work to­gether to solve prob­lems — even when those prob­lems don’t touch them specif­i­cally, city lead­ers said at a panel Satur­day.

It was the first time that the three cur­rent top law en­force­ment of­fi­cials — the district at­tor­ney, the po­lice chief and the sher­iff — came to­gether, meet­ing at the Pot­ter’s House in Dal­las to pub­licly ad­dress chal­lenges that their or­ga­ni­za­tions face.

Dal­las County District At­tor­ney Faith John­son mod­er­ated the dis­cus­sion, which fea­tured Bishop T.D. Jakes of the Pot­ter’s House, Dal­las County Sher­iff Lupe Valdez, new Dal­las po­lice Chief U. Re­nee Hall and de­fense at­tor­ney Toby Shook as pan­elists.

John­son asked the pan­elists whether they be­lieve it’s re­al­is­tic for law en­force­ment and the com­mu­nity to have a strong part­ner­ship.

“Can we re­ally get it right?” she asked. “Can we in Dal­las re­ally show the world, not just this coun­try, but show the world that we can do bet­ter?”

The lead­ers’ mes­sages about in­come dis­par­ity, pub­lic trust and com­mu­nity polic­ing seemed to be a hit with the hun­dreds of peo­ple who re­sponded to their com­ments with ap­plause, cheers and stand­ing ova­tions.

Here are some high­lights

from the dis­cus­sion (quotes con­densed for clar­ity):

Com­mu­nity re­la­tions

Chief Hall: “Part of that [ac­count­abil­ity] is bring­ing the com­mu­nity to the ta­ble, cre­at­ing ad­vi­sory boards, bring­ing ev­ery­body to the ta­ble and talk­ing about where we are as a com­mu­nity, in law en­force­ment. If we’re miss­ing the mark, make the nec­es­sary ad­just­ments to en­sure we are ac­tu­ally go­ing in the right di­rec­tion. Talk is cheap un­til you put work be­hind it.”

Sher­iff Valdez: “The old say­ing has al­ways been if you’re not at the ta­ble you’re on the menu. So of course, you need to be there. You need to be at that ta­ble. We have to rec­og­nize that when we come to the ta­ble, we’re not go­ing to get ev­ery­thing that we want. It has to be a give and take at that ta­ble.”

Bishop Jakes: “Dal­las could cre­ate that city on a hill ... but it’s go­ing to take us not say­ing they have a prob­lem, or they have a prob­lem. It has to be our prob­lem, and we have to solve it to­gether.”

Con­fed­er­ate stat­ues

Chief Hall: “We keep talk­ing about whether these stat­ues should stay up to stay down. If we don’t change who we are and how we treat one an­other, the statue does not mat­ter. We have to work to­gether to build solid re­la­tion­ships so that our chil­dren grow up and have a safe place to live, work and play.”

Le­gal sys­tem fair­ness

De­fense at­tor­ney Shook: “The good news about Dal­las is that you can get a fair shake. When I first started at the DA’s of­fice, it was a dif­fer­ent world. There was one African-Amer­i­can county judge, and there was one fe­male judge. The rest — it was all white guys. Now we have the most di­verse ju­di­cial bench prob­a­bly in Texas, along with Har­ris County. We have an ex­tremely di­verse DA’s of­fice.”

Bishop Jakes: “It is im­por­tant to us to be a voice for those peo­ple who have no voice be­cause in this coun­try, a lot of times jus­tice is de­ter­mined by in­come. If you can hire enough lawyers, you can fight your way out of this. But as we seek to serve those with lit­tle re­sources, the church be­comes ex­tremely sig­nif­i­cant in be­ing a voice for them.”

Drug use

Bishop Jakes: “The drug prob­lem in the in­ner city is mar­keted to us in the me­dia, but it is naive to think that the drug prob­lem is lim­ited to the in­ner city. Amer­ica has a huge drug prob­lem.”

Chief Hall: “If I would truly be hon­est, the war on drugs is not about in­di­vid­u­als, be­cause we are ar­rest­ing those in­di­vid­u­als who are sell­ing it, and I’m not min­i­miz­ing that at all, but we need to stop the process of that com­ing into our coun­try.”

Po­lice ac­count­abil­ity

Sher­iff Valdez: “We need to go back to say­ing, ‘My fel­low law en­force­ment: I need to hold you ac­count­able. We need to hold you ac­count­able.’ And as the com­mu­nity sees that we’re do­ing this, that the 5 per­cent or 2 per­cent is be­ing held ac­count­able, then we can start on the path to hav­ing the trust that we need be­tween each other.”

Chief Hall: “We need you to un­der­stand that we can’t take care of any­one else if we can’t take care of our­selves, so our of­fi­cers are trained to first pro­tect them­selves, but not to the ex­tent that it cre­ates or causes life in­jury or death to any­one else in that we are in reck­less dis­re­gard for hu­man be­hav­ior.”

Nathan Hun­singer/Staff Pho­tog­ra­pher

Dal­las Po­lice Chief U. Re­nee Hall dis­cussed the need for a good re­la­tion­ship be­tween the pub­lic and law en­force­ment at the Blue on the Block fo­rum Satur­day at the Pot­ter’s House in Dal­las.

Nathan Hun­singer/Staff Pho­tog­ra­pher

Some of the crowd stood to ap­plaud the panel at the Blue on the Block com­mu­nity meet­ing at The Pot­ter’s House in Dal­las on Satur­day.

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