Straight Talk with Ed Gray, NDG Senior Columnist
On my Sept. 22 edition of The Commish Radio Show broadcast, I was one of the few African-American leaders to publicly criticize Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall for not terminating Officer Amber Guyger. It was patently obvious to me the police officer who shot and killed Botham Jean needed to be terminated. The department’s slow reaction was not surprising for Dallas leaders.
The truth of the matter is many of our leaders, black or white do not want to change the status quo. This is not about color, it is about power. The outcome for police shootings of civilians is generally a blue line of guarded supremacy. This supremacy was extended to Amber Guyger, by those in charge of the police. Institutions generally do not act in a manner or submit to conditions which would weaken the institution.
For many Black community leaders who previously embraced Chief Hall, to now criticize the first black female police chief was sacrilege. Behind closed doors and in hushed tones they wished Chief Hall would pull the termination trigger and end the street protests because the street protests are bad for the image of Dallas. As if in a concerted effort to let this thing die down, both sides watched anxiously as the world turns.
The old Dallas way of business and politics is simple, wait out the protests. These protests are led by folks generally marginalized. The protestors, for the most part, hold no social, economic, or political clout. Therefore, the marginalization of these protests makes any effort of real change in Dallas unlikely. As a result, Amber Guyger remaining on the payroll was problematic.
Unlike the police killings of the past, this was an international incident. Botham Jean was a citizen of St. Lucia, an immigrant in a strange land who still succumbed to an all too familiar death. In the eyes of the world, a United States policeman who admittedly killed someone was not arrested, there was no justice.
Throughout the years, the deaths of local Dallas citizens at the hands of the police, and the subsequent no billing of officers, the acquittal of a policeman, and light sentencing of a guilty policeman, has made the Dallas Police Department suspect. The continued employment of Amber Guyger became an indictment of a system many felt is corrupt, and unchanging since the 1973 death of 12-year-old, Santos Rodriguez at the hands of policeman David Cain.
Santos was murdered in cold blood, and the first reaction of the Dallas Police Department was to stonewall it, does it sound familiar? The irony is that the national premiere of the documentary, “Santos Vive,” by filmmaker Byron Hunter, chronicling Santos Rodriguez’s death premiered in Dallas under the backdrop similar to Santos murderer. Amber Guyger was perceived to be poised to virtually get away with murder, just as Officer Darrel Cain, who served very little time, did for the death of Santos. Amber Guyger killed someone, was subsequently arrested because of community protest, yet she remained on the police department’s payroll. Soon it became apparent community protest was required to change her status.
The inconvenient truth matter is the police like many other organizations often circle the wagons to protect each other. After all, it is said they are a fraternity.
Chief Renee Hall terminated Amber Guyger because she was pushed by popular opinion to bend to the will of the people. A people united in the cause of freedom will make leaders redraw lines designed to protect their institutions. The politicians listen to the will of the people when social activists galvanize the will of the people to act. Only then will politicians be forced to take action.
I am Ed Gray, and this is Straight Talk.
Ed Gray was a member of the search committee that appointed Chief Renee Hall in 2017.