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Black police gala doesn’t dance around issues

KENYATTA GIDDINGS | 11/30/2015, 2:42 p.m.
Dallas’ finest traded badges for bow ties at the 40th annual Black Police Association of Greater Dallas Gala at the ...

The Dallas Examiner

Dallas’ finest traded badges for bow ties at the 40th annual Black Police Association of Greater Dallas Gala at the Hyatt Regency Dallas on Nov. 7. State Sen. Royce West and Toni Brinker Pickens, founder and CEO of Operation Blue Shield, hosted the gala to honor the founding members of the organization as well as award community leaders who have made special contributions to the success of the organization over the past 40 years.

In 1975, Calvin Howard, Preston Gilstrap, Arthur Busby, George Coleman, Mackeroy Tuck, Simon Young, Shirley Gray and Harold Parks held a secret organizational meeting in the backroom of the Alpha House on Good-Latimer. Though the group had been warned not to form an organization that would challenge the race, gender bias and other policies of the Dallas Police Department, they became the founding/charter members of the Texas Peace Officers’ Association – Dallas Chapter. Howard became the president.

As the gala started, Chief David Brown took the ballroom stage to offer “Greetings.” He used the platform to highlight the significant reduction in Dallas’ murder rate – the lowest since 1930 – and the decline in “use of force” complaints. The latter took a 75 percent nosedive resulting in only 13 filed complaints for 2015.

“If loving you is wrong, I don’t want to be right,” Brown said, referencing the 1972 Luther Ingram R&B song.

He made his disappointment known in what he called “the best department in the country,” blaming low self-esteem as the reason officers have turned to “attacking each other.”

Brown, who has been under scrutiny from various police associations calling for his removal, tried his best through statistics, comedy and cultural similarities, to repair solidarity within the BPA – which now consists of 650 sworn officers and deputies.

Unity between Black police officers was a plea that rang loudly throughout the evening. Michael Eric Dyson was the keynote speaker for the evening. His speech was a lightly veiled finger wag at officers harboring hostile feelings toward the police chief. He dissected envy as a healthy recognition of someone doing something you wish you could do, and jealousy as a hatred toward that person for the ability that you may lack.

Dyson didn’t shy away from officer race relations both within the force and on patrol. He highlighted that Brown “gets hate” because he’s “a Black man in charge,” and reminded the audience that Black officers out of uniform might be subjected to the same inhumane treatment Black citizens suffer at the hands of police.

The most touching moment of the night, however, came from charter members of the BPA. They expressed what it was like to be among the first African Americans on the force in a Dallas that looked much different than it does today. Tales of unfair treatment from superiors were uplifted by recollections of unity amongst Black officers.

In video recording, one officer described an encounter with a White officer who used a racial slur that offended him. When he reported the offense to a senior officer, he was asked, “Why are you talking to me? Don’t you know the chain of command?”

These elders of the force took pride in the interest they had in their community, and expressed sadness in witnessing the current apathy of so many faces of color behind the badge.