Four police leaders in North Texas who identify as African American – Dallas County Sheriff Marian Brown, Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall, Denton Police Chief Frank Dixon and Plano Police Chief Ed Drain – experience an interesting crossroads of law enforcement and life.
“I was born in 1960 and I grew up in East Texas,” Drain explained. “I went to segregated schools when I was in primary school and the environment that I grew up in… I understand racist policing and I can understand why people would be frustrated.”
“You’re talking about the challenge of being both Black and blue,” Brown said. “Yes, in being African American, there are people who say you are a traitor because you are a part of the system, and they fail to realize that if you don’t have a voice at the table, then you have no representation.”
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“Being African American and having a seat at the table, understanding the need for diversity and inclusion to make sure our voices are heard and continuing to make the changes that need to be made,” Hall said.
“There are those in the blue [police] community who say ‘well, if you say Black lives do matter,’ they say, ‘well, are you betraying us as brothers and sisters in blue?’ It’s a very peculiar situation to be in,” Brown added. “We are kind of between a rock and a hard place if you will.”
There is an intersection that cannot be ignored in being a law enforcement leader and having lived the Black experience.
“The intersection never stops,” Dixon said. “To this day as a police chief, when I get ready to go out for a run in my neighborhood, I worry about not having my headphones up too loud so that I can’t hear what’s going on around me – where am carrying my phone when I am running? Do I have ID on me and are people going to call police if there is a strange guy running through their neighborhood? And that’s today in 2020 and I’m a chief of police.”
They condemn officers who have not performed duties with integrity and honor.
“Contrary to popular belief, good cops are not protecting bad cops. We do not want them in this profession any more than anyone else does,” Dixon said.
“Police officers have to have due process when they have used force and when it is looked at by the department or by the district attorney’s office and we can’t just go by what we see on the video,” Drain said. “Police officers like everyone else are entitled to due process.”
They also find themselves in the position to lead and serve as role models.
“Our goal moving forward is that we provide an opportunity and a seat at the table for everyone who has an idea about what policing should look like,” Hall said.
“It was a chance for me to bridge a gap between communities. Between law enforcement and the community as a whole, but especially the African American community – my own community,” Brown said.