To all the peaceful protesters and concerned citizens, the Dallas Police Association’s message is and will continue to be: We see you. We hear you. We’re with you.
Our association has been outspoken about the tragic death of George Floyd. What happened to Floyd should deeply disturb every officer. The tactics used by the officers during his arrest are not what we train or teach, and the bad actions by one officer affect us all.
Recently, The Dallas Morning News editorial staff advocated for reforms in the Dallas Police Department. The Dallas Police Association strongly agrees. We have called for changes and smart policing for years, only to be met with opposition. Despite the opposition, our push for change has allowed us to become one of the most advanced departments in the nation. Our officers undergo rigorous instruction, including anti-bias training. The Dallas Police Department has the best academy trainers in the state, serving our goal to have the best officers in Texas.
But we need to do more. In recent weeks, many civic action groups have submitted proposals and reforms to the city of Dallas and Dallas County officials that they believe will ameliorate conditions between communities and law enforcement. We suggest doing the following immediately:
Community outreach. We want to be a part of the communities we serve. We want to know the names of the teachers, the business owners, the pastors, the restaurant workers, the shopkeepers and the families who live and work on our beats. Community policing can change lives and make neighborhoods safer. We want to work with local leaders to build bridges within each community. This will require the approval of command staff and the chief.
Define our job. Our former Chief David Brown wisely said, “Every societal failure, we put it on the cops to solve. Not enough mental health funding, let the cop handle it. Not enough drug addiction funding, let’s give it to the cops. … That’s too much to ask. Policing was never meant to solve all those problems.” Our officers cannot do it all. We need government at every level to come alongside us and focus on strengthening services for mental health, social work, loose animals and counseling, so that our officers can focus on policing and safety.
Hire social workers. Dallas police officers cannot fill the role of social workers nor should they be asked to. We need more funds dedicated to hiring social workers who can handle complex casework. This will be an asset for families and officers.
Maintain high standards for new officers. We want the very best officers in our department. Helping us attract and retain excellent qualified officers is how your City Council can help keep Dallas safer.
We want to come together with leaders and community activists to make meaningful change and to build trust between police officers and the people they serve. To accomplish this we need everyone to come to the table with their community’s best interest at heart. However, we must also be careful not to legitimize or make mainstream the self-serving voices of a few trying to divide people for their own gain or to promote violence in our community.
We see you working, raising families and needing safe streets for your children to play. We hear you saying that we have broken systems and you are tired of feeling like the fight will never end. We’re with you, asking more of our leaders, asking for more support in your communities and asking for a better relationship with our department.
We want Dallas to be a diverse, thriving, vibrant city that is safe for communities regardless of their ZIP code. We are here and we will never stop working to keep Dallas families safe.
Frederick Frazier is vice president of the Dallas Police Association. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.