In spite of recent controversy the Black Police Association of Greater Dallas (BPA) will celebrate its 40th year in existence Saturday at the Hyatt Regency in Dallas. Keynote speaker for the event will be Dr. Michael Eric Dyson.
The Texas Peace Officers Association now known as the Black Police Association of Greater Dallas was founded in 1975 by a group of black police officers who recognized that the future of black police officers was at stake.
In an interview with current President of the BPA Cletus Judge he reflected on the issues the Founders faced thus leading to the development of the Texas Peace Officers Association. “In 1975 the Dallas Police Association (DPA) represented all police officers no matter the race. But African American officers were not being adequately represented. The officers were having problems getting hired and if they were hired they were fired just as quickly; if they remained on the force they were having trouble with transfers and promotions.There were even some units where black officers were not allowed to work in at all and most were relegated to areas predominately populated by blacks such as Hall Street. Which was the first area where black officers were relegated to.”
With the reality that the current organization in place was not going to address the concerns of African American officers, several officers joined together and created the Texas Peace Officers Association. The Founding Members of the association are as follows: Calvin Howard (President), Preston Gilstrap (Parliamentarian), Arthur Busby (Sergeant at Arms), George Coleman (Treasurer), Mackeroy Tuck (Advisor), Simon Young (Chaplain), Shirley Gray (Secretary), and Harold Parks (Vice-President).
With the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 not to far in the past “It was a scary time to join an all black organization as a police officer” Judge explains. “The Dallas Police Department nor the Dallas Police Association supported this move, instead the founders were met with discourage. Telling the African American officers that they did not need any other representation. Many officers were threatened and some careers were greatly stifled because the officer joined the Black Police Association. Along with the threats it was hard to sway officers from the other organization to an organization with the resources and legal representation to help them get the respect in the department that they deserved.But eventually they came on board realizing they were not getting the support they needed from the Dallas Police Association.” .
Under the leadership of the current President Cletus Judge the organization is thriving and making progress in securing a healthy work environment for African American officers within the department. Judge touts an 80 percent success rate for transfers and promotions based on the extra support and preparation testing they have available for officers.
In response to my question about the biasness of the exam, he openly admits that yes they were at one time. “The testing was bias but has evolved over the years. Initially there was only the written test but when African Americans began passing the written test. Another segment was brought in called the “Assessment Center”where an oral test is given by officers from every department and the applicant is judged on his responses. But in recent years our officers are scoring well above the average test score on oral evaluations based on the test preparation we give.”
The Black Police Association is one of a kind and is not affiliated with the National Black Police Association but is doing the work of a national organization. Not only does the BPA offer career guidance and preparation testing, they also offer legal support and anonymous counseling for personal matters not just those surrounding the job.
The BPA also houses another program available to all officers of the law not just its members. The Officer Down Foundation is a 501(c) 3 organization designed to assist all officers, of the Dallas Police Department including Dallas Independent School District officers, who experience a catastrophic event. Judge cited that the foundation has assisted officers with more than $50,000 in the past three years helping with illness, loss of home due to fire and officers injured in the line of duty. The fund is supported through donations only.
While reading up on Cletus Judge I found his mission statement, “Bridge the gaps – both real and perceptual – between the Black community and law enforcement establishment through mutual respect, trust, cooperation and positive interaction.” His response to how to handle the friction between the public and local police departments nationwide took me by surprise, “There is a distinct difference in being a police officer and being a black police officer. When we come on the scene black people do not expect us to just walk away and let them go. They expect respect and to be treated fairly. And you don’t see too many black officers out there beating up people and violating their civil rights.”
The organization also believes that community involvement is another way to curb the distrust of police officers. They hold their annual back to school book and supply drive, they are also supporters of two mentor programs in the West Dallas area. For young men, through the KAPPA Society, the annual Kappa Camp is held at Paul Quinn College and the West Dallas Girls Inc program. This year they held their first Stop the Violence Community Meeting teaching residents how to deescalate a volatile situation between the police and a crowd and how to just be safe and to not be afraid of police officers.
In spite of the issues surrounding Chief David Brown, Judge showed strong support, “The Black Police Association has consistently stated that we back Chief Brown in spite of our conflicts in the past. But no one is 100 percent on point all the time. But overall Chief Brown has done a great job with the police department. I think those who have a problem with Chief Brown are those who are being held accountable for their inappropriate actions. When we took an oath and we raised our hands and took this job we said we would be judged and held at a higher standard. We have to treat people with justice and fairness.” When asked if the complaints about Chief Brown were valid he responded with “Yes. But we still support him 100%.”
If you are interested in attending the event you can purchase tickets at HTTP://BPA40.Eventbrite.com or call 214 421 7644