Chief: Public, police must cooperate
At forum, top law enforcement officials discuss bridging divide
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):
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.