On Monday night I had the privilege of moderating my first panel for D Magazine’s Happy Hour With an Agenda series. It involved our latest law enforcement triumvirate: Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall, Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, and Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson. But with standing room only in the office lobby and a crowd gone wild when the ladies took the stage, it felt much less like a panel and more like a rock concert.
And rightfully so. For the first time in a major U.S. city, the three top law enforcement agencies—the police department, district attorney’s office, and sheriff’s department—are led by women. And not only by women, but by three women of color.
During the panel, we talked about Chief Hall’s reorg plans and the challenges of maintaining morale and recruiting officers in the face of a pension crisis. We talked about the politics of misdemeanor crime prosecutions, the efficacy of diversion programs, and racially sensitive policing. We talked pot and mental health and the cost of bail. But one of my biggest takeaways came at the end, in response to a question from a member of the audience.
The question had to do with what the panelists thought the biggest public safety threat for women would be in 10 years. As expected, it led to an extended discussion about domestic violence and sexual assault. But then Sheriff Valdez talked about how when she had talked to some rapists and asked them how they chose their victims, the rapists said they could identify the vulnerable ones—the ones who were less likely to scream, or run, or fight back. Valdez said that we needed to teach girls how to not be vulnerable. How to be confident and strong, even as short women like her (and me).
Of course, being a confident, strong female is not a foolproof safeguard against assault. But in a week of #MeToo, sitting on stage with three confident, strong, badass women, looking out at an audience of rapt young female professionals, I found myself full of gratitude. And hope.
Give it a listen through the streaming player below, or use your favorite podcatcher (search “EarBurner”; don’t ask).