By Tristan Hallman
The Dallas Morning News
DALLAS — After wading through police association politics during a fight over the training academy, Chief David Brown says he wants a "Kumbaya" moment.
"I'm going to put my foot in it with this," he said in a recent interview. "It's time for Dallas to have one union representing all of our officers. The time for our unions to be segregated around race is long passed."
The associations' leaders say Brown's idea is a nice thought — just don't bet on it happening soon.
"While I agree that there should not be any racial divides anywhere, we just don't live in those times yet," said Robert Arredondo, the president of the Dallas Latino Peace Officers Association. "We're all working toward that."
The city has four major police associations, some of which also represent officers in other area jurisdictions: the Dallas LPOA, the Dallas Police Association, the Dallas Fraternal Order of Police and the Black Police Association of Greater Dallas.
Ron Pinkston, the president of the Dallas Police Association, said he has tried to unite the groups before, but "our outreach has been rejected."
The recent fight over the Dallas police training academy pit Pinkston's group — the city's largest — against the Black Police Association.
Much of the controversy started when BPA officials told commanders they believed black recruits were failing out of the academy on certain tests at a higher rate than white recruits.
At one BPA meeting, board members complained specifically about the way Senior Cpl. Manny Sanchez, a DPA member and academy driving instructor, had treated a black recruit. They also noted that commanders had promised changes at the academy.
Sanchez remains on administrative leave while under investigation for changing a different black recruit's test score — despite other instructors saying he had little to do with the score.
Brown said he directed commanders to look into the BPA's complaints. He said he was sensitive to possible lawsuits because the BPA had sued him before for not promoting enough older black officers.
Some officers believed Brown was favoring the BPA. Records show the chief is a current dues-paying member of the organization.
But Brown said he treated the associations the same during the tit-for-tat: whenever any of them had an allegation, he looked into it.
Brown announced after a DPA complaint about the academy that the BPA's claims turned out to be statistically true. But the failed recruits were a fraction of the hundreds of recruits who went through the academy.
The fight snowballed and eventually led to several instructors filing grievances against Brown, saying he had labeled them as racist during the investigation.
Brown said the fight illustrated the problems with taking time to deal with four major groups.
"It's a big distraction," he said. "It puts whoever the chief is in a position to have to referee sometimes petty squabbles."
But some association heads say Brown plays politics, too.
Pinkston said Brown is saying the right thing by asking for unity but behaves differently behind the scenes. He said Brown shows favoritism toward some organizations and races while making promotions and transfers. The chief denies that, but the BPA has been pushing for more black officers in certain areas of the department.
"In truth, if the chief would get out of the way, a united organization might be possible," Pinkston said.
Richard Todd, the Dallas Fraternal Order of Police president, said he believes the department pits the organizations against each other frequently.
He said the groups agree most of the time but already have unique identities, political connections and ties to other municipal, state and national organizations.
"Everyone puts their time and effort into their organization," Todd said. "If you put your heart and soul into something, you don't want to give it up."
But he said he was open to the idea and that if Brown wanted his plan to work, he would give them all special assignments to sit in a room together until they hash out their differences.
Retired Dallas Police Association President Glenn White said he believes there is a place for minority-centric organizations. But "in a perfect world, you'd love to have everyone come together," he said.
He said it would be especially nice for Brown to deal with only one organization — but their issues wouldn't go away. And that means the various associations aren't likely to go anywhere either.
"It's always been everyone's goal to bring them together," White said. "I realized a long, long time ago that it was never going to happen."
At A Glance: Dallas Police Racial Breakdown
2% Asian/ Pacific Islander
Note: Numbers current as of March 31. Some Hispanics may also be counted as white.
Source: Dallas Police Department
The Four Major Police Associations
Dallas Police Association
President: Ron Pinkston
Members claimed: About 2,700
Dallas Fraternal Order of Police
President: Richard Todd
Members claimed: About 1,200
Black Police Association of Greater Dallas
President: Cletus Judge
Members claimed: About 600
Dallas Latino Peace Officers Association
President: Robert Arredondo
Members claimed: About 700
Note: Not all members for all organizations are sworn Dallas police officers.
Source: Dallas Morning News research
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Copyright 2014 The Dallas Morning News