The Dallas Examiner
America’s eyes are now set on how society responds to racism and police brutality throughout the country with recent events such as NFL players kneeling during the national anthem in protest against racism and multiple deadly police shootings across the country.
Within the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, a few prominent leaders – Bishop TD Jakes, new Dallas police chief U. Renee Hall, Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and defense attorney Toby Shook – dissected the fractured relationship between local citizens and the police department in a panel discussion themed “Blue on the Block: Strengthening relationships between law enforcement and the community,” moderated by Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson on Sept. 16.
The conversation kicked off by emphasizing how local residents affect the safety of the city as a whole.
“Policing was never designed to be strictly done by police,” Hall said. “We got away from having working relationships with the community and the police together to solve crime.”
The new chief continued stating that through neighborhood patrolling combined with effective police work, a powerful system can be created to minimize crime in the area.
“Community policing is still important because we can’t do it alone. We need your help,” she expressed.
The consistent echo of the responsibility of city residents also sparked conversation about the history of the issues revolving around the community and the police, specifically minority communities.
“The sound of sirens historically have not always been warming,” Jakes said.
The renowned pastor detailed the evolution of distrust between African Americans and the police rooted in slavery, the Civil Rights Movement and persistent false stereotype of violence being in the Black community.
“I don’t want it to be heard in such a way that with the color of my skin comes the propensity of being criminal,” Jakes affirmed. “We have to understand about the communities that are having (mass) crime that they are not having a lot of crime because they are Black or Brown; They are having a lot of crime because in this country we have created these cesspools. What started off as low-income housing for people who have no place to stay almost became a place of incarceration, homelessness, and disparity, and any people of any color if you put them in a trapped environment long enough where there are no jobs, no health care, no resources will create crime.”
Shortly after his response, the Potter’s House founder was questioned about local churches’ involvement in mending this broken societal relationship.
“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,” he explained. “If you can hire enough lawyers, you can fight your way out of almost anything. But as we seek to serve those with little resources, the church becomes a voice for them.”
The discourse shifted from holding the community accountable to police accountability.
“We need to go back to saying, ‘My fellow law enforcement: I need to hold you accountable. We need to hold you accountable,’” Valdez said. “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.”
Each exchange brought in a newly balanced perspective on how each side – average citizens and the average police officer – assesses about certain situations.
“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,” Hall explained.
The panel closed with a discussion about solutions that can solve this long-standing problem and bring peace to the city.
“Part of (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,” Hall said. “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.”
The speakers emphasized that dialogue is a powerful tool that could change local courses of action and the environment that an individual lives in.
“The old saying has always been if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu,” Valdez expressed. “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.”