It was a Thursday afternoon and Roosevelt Ford was 30 minutes away from quitting time, headed back to police headquarters to sign off. He could hear voices on the police radio, but he wasn’t really listening – something about shots being Tired on a city bus. Then a transmission caught his attention.
“Send us a supervisor and an ambulance. We’ve got a suspect shot.”
Ford called the dispatcher. “This is 1046. Did they say this is a police shooting?”
“Yes, sir. That’s 10-4.” “
What’s the address?”
“Forty-ten Swiss.” Ford was only a couple of blocks from there.
“Notify my office. I’ll be en route.”
The scene of the shooting was chaotic. Police officers seemed to be wandering in circles. Citizens were gawking. Fire Department paramedics were hunched over a body sprawled on the pavement.
Ford could see a young policeman with a mustache sitting in a nearby squad car. A tiny gear clicked into place inside Roosevelt Ford and he started to gather in his mind the questions that he had been asking again and again for six years.
Ford, a 49-year-old black man, is an investigator for the Internal Affairs Division, the police who watch the police. It would be his job to determine whether the shaken young cop sitting in the car had acted in self-defense or committed murder.
For the next eight hours Roosevelt Ford worked overtime, seeking out civilian witnesses, taking statements from the seven officers involved, coordinating investigations with the Crimes Against Persons section.
The saga began at a small frame house at 6211 Worth Street in East Dallas, the home of 82-year-old Harold Allison and his 80-year-old wife, Jeanette. The couple heard the doorbell ringing and then a loud knocking at the front of their house. They looked out through a window and saw a young Mexican-American standing on the porch. They didn’t know him so they didn’t open the door.
After they thought he had left, he walked around the side of the house to the back door. It was unlocked and he walked in.
“Give me your money,” he demanded. The old man started down the hall toward a closet where he kept a loaded semi-automatic pistol. Before Allison could get to the weapon, the young man grabbed it and pushed him into the closet. Jeanette Allison began screaming and the young man ran out the front door.
A few minutes later, he boarded a city bus, asked for change, was refused, and walked to the back of the bus, firing a round from the pistol. He then jumped from the bus and ran off between two apartment buildings.
The description broadcast on the police radio was detailed: “Latin male in his twenties, 5-foot-10, 155 pounds, mustache, beige pants, red jacket, and a football jer-sey with number 38 on it.” Even as the bulletin went out, a police officer spotted him in the 4000 block of Live Oak. Two squad cars converged on him; the young man turned and fired once, then fled. A wild chase through back yards stopped briefly when he paused to fire at a pursuer.
As the man ran in front of a church, still waving his pistol, Charles Edmonson, a theological student, raised the camera he was carrying and shot pictures of the fracas.
The man ran to the church, glanced back, then tried the front door. It was locked and he turned. By now patrolman Eric Tab-bert had joined the chase.
The young gunman raised his right arm and pointed the old man’s pistol at Eric Tabbert for a brief second, then fled across Swiss Avenue with Tabbert behind him. Tabbert had drawn his own pistol.
Yelling at him to stop, Tabbert cornered the young man between two cars and a brick wall.
Tabbert, 28, a five year veteran of the police force, later said the young man turned toward him, raising his pistol above his head, then lowering it in a way that Tab-bert often did at the police firing range. “I was scared. I knew that I was either going to die or I’d have to kill him. He was facing me and his arm was coming down. It had just cleared his head.”
Tabbert raised his gun and fired three shots. The young man with 38 on his shirt fell dead; he landed on his back with his arms spread.
Eric Tabbert stood and stared.
It was an unusual case for Roosevelt Ford – unusual in that it was so devoid of controversy. So far.
He had photographs of the chase almost to the moment of the shooting. Another witness, Richard Gill, who lived in an apartment above the scene of the shooting, had taken several pictures moments after the last shot was fired.
Ford had a file that bulged with reports, statements, photographs, affidavits, and other documents.
The dead man was identified from fingerprints on file as Oscar Lopez Kerdan, a 23-year-old itinerant Mexican national who, in 1975, had been arrested by Dallas police for investigation of burglary.
“Based on this evidence (outlined),” Ford wrote in his report, “it is concluded that Officer Tabbert was justified in shooting Oscar Lopez Kerdan. His actions were to protect himself and other officers.”
He then cited four sections of the Texas Penal Code applying to self-protection and the use of deadly force.
It was after he had written the report that he first noticed the discrepancy. Contrary to the testimony of every witness, the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s office concluded that Oscar Kerdan had been shot in the back.
The report was clear. The fatal bullet entered Kerdan’s lower left back and exited through his upper right chest.
Roosevelt Ford shook his head.
“That’s what it says,” he muttered. “I’m going to have to check that. But what about all these witnesses?”
The photos taken moments after the shooting showed the victim on his back, facing what had been Tabbert’s direction, as the officers had described.
A few minutes later, an investigator laughed as he offered Ford an explanation. “They shot him in the back and rolled him over. So what?” Ford didn’t laugh.
Ford took the autopsy report to his captain. Again, they analyzed the pictures, the witnesses’ statements, and the officers’ accounts of the running gun battle. Could the doctor have made a mistake?
Linda Norton and co-signer of the report Dr. Vincent DiMaio – both experienced Dallas County associate medical examiners – were adamant.
“He was shot in the back,” Dr. Norton said. “I am absolutely sure about that. There is no doubt whatsoever.”
There were three other sets of entrance and exit wounds, she said. They were all to his arms, but one set was the result of a ricochet, or re-entry, of a bullet that already had passed through another part of his body.
Dr. Norton said the nature of the wounds suggested movement during injury; she surmised that he was running and in a crouched position. The autopsy could not determine what direction the arm wounds came from, thus suggesting the possibility that he had been facing the officer and had turned after the first shot struck him.
“I’m not trying to protect the Dallas Police Department,” she said. “They could have shot that poor man in the back as he was fleeing. . .”
Ford and his captain did not think so. True, neither had been at the scene. But, Ford said, he had so many witnesses.
“What shot was fired first we’ll never know,” he said.
Ford’s report would remain as written, but the case would – as a routine procedure – be presented to a Dallas County grand jury.
“I’ll present the facts,” he said.
The Kerdan case hasn’t produced any sensational headlines or official probes, but in its way, it is a paradigm of the controversy that continues to surround the Internal Affairs Division of the Dallas Police Department. Since its creation in 1968, IAD has been the constant target of criticism from civil rights leaders who allege it systematically covers up serious incidents of police corruption and brutality. The logic of the critics could seem compelling: The notion that cops can effectively police other cops is untenable, they say; IAD investigators may be honest and well-intentioned, but they are still cops. Protecting their own unavoidably comes before abstractions like “the public interest”, the critics say.
Such fears have only been heightened by a series of ugly scandals in the department that critics believe were glossed over by IAD. When several narcotics officers were merely transferred to other divisions following a spate of serious allegations of misconduct in 1976, some of the more vocal critics of IAD wondered if they’d really gotten their just desserts. When three officers were involved in the alleged pre-arranged arrest of a man over a personal grudge, they first were given no punishment other than days off without pay. It was more carte blanche for the cops, the critics said.
For some time, the department hoped the public relations problem would just go away. IAD officers were reclusive and secretive; inquiring reporters were generally given the cold shoulder and shown the way to the door. When asked to defend themselves, investigators would just shrug. But the silent treatment has done little to defuse the worry about coverups: Twice in the past six years, citizens’ groups have forced the issue to a City Council vote. In both cases, opponents of IAD proposed that a formal civilian review board be created to “watch the watchdogs” and to look out for citizen interests only. In both cases, the notion was rejected, largely because of intense lobbying by the police.
But the questions remain: Can cops police themselves? Lawyers, doctors, journalists, scientists are loath even to criticize colleagues, let alone investigate or punish them; why should we assume police officers are any different? If it’s true that there is nothing more dangerous than a bad cop, should a civilian review board or citizen ombudsman be instituted to protect the public from possible police abuse and coverup? If an internal affairs division is the best we can do, shouldn’t its activities be made more public?
A month-long investigation of the IAD predictably produced no final answer and many more questions. But it did provide some unprecedented insight into these so-called headhunters’ work and how they feel about it. It also revealed that no one is more sensitive to the charges of coverup than the Inter-nal Affairs officers themselves.
Can a normally ethical, well-run Internal Affairs operation break down? In Roosevelt Ford’s view, the answer is “Yes.”
Hesitantly, he describes a case assigned to him by a previous commander of IAD. Two male officers were accused of beating a prisoner. A third officer, a woman, was accused of helping to cover up the incident.
Ford was sure of his facts. As the investigation unfolded, he produced a witness to the incident, a woman whom he said had no bias in either direction.
“I sustained the charge of physical abuse and it was initially approved. But then it went out to the station for recommendations on punishment. The officers under investigation were apparently in the good graces of their supervisors.
“I had been very careful and I’d slept on it but the supervisors didn’t agree with my conclusion. All these grunts and grumbles started coming from the station and they tended to soften the heart of the former commander here.”
The next thing Ford knew, he was ordered to rewrite his report. “I’m an obedient soldier and I do what I’m told. I was highly perturbed, but 1 was not going to be insubordinate.”
While complying with instructions to “take out certain paragraphs and make other changes,” Ford said he tried to preserve the facts of the case. But, he said, after being asked to rewrite the report three times, little of his original evidence was left. “By the time it got to the chief, it was so weak absolutely nothing was done. He ordered it changed from sustained to not sustained. With what he saw, that’s what he had to do.”
Don Byrd was chief at the time. He held that position from 1973 to 1979.
In similar cases during that time – with no more evidence – other police officers were fired.
“Now just because I felt it was right doesn’t mean it was, but. . .” Ford stops in mid-sentence. “I’ve still got my original, hand-written report and I always will have it.”
As outlined in the Dallas Police Department’s general orders, the purpose of the Internal Affairs Division is to “ensure the complete and impartial investigation of all complaints. . . whether they are externally or internally generated.” It can also initiate its own investigations, reporting directly to the chief of police. No other police official has control of the division.
Its task is also to “assure the prompt and thorough investigation of incidents to clear the innocent, establish guilt, and determine the underlying causes which result in unsatisfactory conduct.” This, the order states, is to be done so that “objective action may be taken to remedy [such a] problem.”
Then, it adds, emphasis should be placed on the “positive approach rather than the negative or the punitive aspects of discipline.”
In the first nine months of 1979, a total of 217 formal complaints were accepted by the Internal Affairs Division. Citizens filed 138 of those; the rest came from within the police force. Almost 41 percent of the citizen complaints were filed by blacks or Mexican -Americans.
The complaints were lodged against 331 police employees – 240 of whom were police officers, the remainder civilian employees such as jail guards. The overwhelming majority of those complained about were white. The most complained about branch of the police force was the city jail – the subject of strict discipline in the first weeks of current police chief Glen King’s administration – followed closely by the Central Police Division, which covers East Dallas, the northern edge of South Dallas, and all of downtown. Next in line was the Southeast District, which includes most of South Dallas and most of South Oak Cliff – although it got only a little more than half as many complaints as the much smaller Central District.
Of the 217 complaints, 118 resulted in the department’s taking some sort of action against officers or employees. Twelve persons were fired, three were demoted, 12 resigned, 36 were given time off without pay, 57 got written or verbal reprimands, and three received counseling.
Rank and file cops who say that they have no rights when IAD is unleashed are both right and wrong.
An officer can be ordered to answer questions relating to his duties and he can be disciplined up to and including dismissal for refusal to answer such questions.
Any statement he givesunder orders can be usedagainst him in disciplinaryaction or civil proceedings.Such statements would notbe admissable in a criminalcourt. However, any voluntary statement or confessionthat he makes could be usedagainst him in a criminal court.
The officer may have his immediate supervisor present during an interview concerning noncriminal conduct, but may not have an attorney. The rules are reversed for interviews about criminal conduct.
He is issued no reminder of his rights during a routine IAD inquiry.
As often quoted from Gilbert and Sullivan, a policeman’s lot is not a happy one.
Charlie Epperson was nervous. The 23-year-old black police officer who worked the tough evening shift in equally tough South Dallas was fidgeting with a set of dominoes at an old table in the basement locker room of police headquarters.
He was waiting to submit to a polygraph examination that would, in part, decide if he was a bent cop.
Did he want to play a game or two of dominoes while he waited?
“No,” he said quietly. “My daddy was a preacher and I never knew how to play cards or anything like that. He didn’t like that sort of thing – like gambling.”
The charges against him included associating with persons of immoral character in his off-duty hours, theft, dereliction of duty, submitting a false report. . .
In plainer language, Charlie Epperson was accused of running with prostitutes, participating in the rolling of a whore’s client, and lying.
As his sergeant walked into the room, Officer Epperson adjusted his polished pistol and holster and pushed himself back from the table. He was already crossing the room when the sergeant spoke.
“You ready.” It was more an order than a question.
Epperson nodded, then headed up the stairs that led back to the first floor and the secluded polygraph rooms of the Physical Evidence Section.
Charlie Epperson finished work at one o’clock in the morning on November 22. Still wearing his police uniform, he walked to the parking lot behind the Southeast District Substation at 6500 Bexar Street, in the heart of the ghetto.
He unlocked the door of his car, a burnt orange Datsun 280-Z. The hood and trunk were flamed with yellow and green. The CB antenna was a custom job, painted orange to match the car. It made Charlie proud. There was not another car in Dallas like it.
At three o’clock in the morning he was driving through East Dallas. He’d been home to the Oak Cliff apartment he shares with another police officer, and had changed his clothes. Charlie would later explain that his roommate was entertaining a young woman and that he went out for a drive to give his friend privacy.
At the intersection of San Jacinto and Burlew, his car was blocked by another. Even in the darkness, he could see that it was being driven by two young Mexican-American men.
Charlie said he backed up to avoid a confrontation, but the two men followed him in their car. At the intersection of San Jacinto and Carroll, one of the men jumped from his car and ran toward Charlie’s Datsun brandishing what looked like a crowbar or a tire tool. The man threw the hunk of steel at Charlie’s car, snapping his antenna, Charlie said, and he accelerated away.
In an ensuing chase, the two young Chicanos rammed Charlie from the rear, then both cars skidded to a stop in a parking lot at 4800 Bryan. It was there that Officers Tommie Elliott and Jerry Right had parked their squad car on another call.
“I’m a police officer,” Charlie said, pulling his badge from his pocket as he walked to their car. And then he told his colleagues how he had been attacked.
Adrian Cortes, the 18-year-old driver of the other car, had a different story. He and his friend, Pedro Morales, had purchased the services of a black prostitute less than an hour earlier. She had performed oral sex for them, he said, but she also had stolen $100 from his pants.
By Adrian’s account, the prostitute made her getaway with a black man who drove up in a unique burnt orange Datsun 280-Z.
The two patrolmen had the evidence of an attack on Charlie’s car so, after some confusion, they arrested Adrian Cortes for aggravated assault. They then arrested Pedro Morales for public intoxication and Charlie Epperson went home.
After booking the two Chicanos into the City Jail, the patrolmen called their sergeant. By the next morning, the IAD had received two reports of the incident – one from the Central supervisor and one from the Criminal Investigation Division, where an investigator interrogating Adrian Cortes on the assault charge had heard the same story.
Called in on his day off, Charlie Epperson gave his version of the incident. Not only was the Chicanos’ story a lie, Charlie said, but one of the patrolmen had smacked one of the Chicanos around when he arrested him. Charlie volunteered to take a polygraph to prove that he wasn’t the whore’s friend – let alone her pimp.
Investigator J.D. James was assigned the case for Internal Affairs. In the next few days, he interviewed the young Mexicans, searched East Dallas for several prostitutes, interviewed the patrolmen, and reviewed Epperson’s polygraph test.
According to Internal Affairs, Charlie Epperson finally cracked. He admitted he had known several prostitutes personally since his days as a police cadet living in East Dallas. He admitted he had a black woman with him in his car in the pre-dawn hours of November 22.
Was he actually involved in the theft of $100 from the young Mexican-Americans? Epperson maintained he wasn’t and in the absence of more evidence, that charge was classified “not sustained.”
Had the patrolman roughed up his prisoner, or was that an attempt by Epperson to shift attention away from the charges against him? Charlie Epperson refused to take a second polygraph test to address that issue. The patrolman was cleared. Apart from the theft charge, all others against Epperson were classified as “sustained.”
From the time that a charge is substantiated, a massive exercise in paperwork is begun. The investigator’s report is reviewed by a sergeant and a lieutenant, then typed, reviewed by the head of IAD, and sent to the officer’s direct supervisors for a recommendation on punishment.
The officer can then choose between receiving immediate discipline from the chief or first appearing before an Employee Relations Board – composed of a deputy chief, a captain, a lieutenant, the officer’s direct supervisor, and another officer of his own choice.
Either way, punishment is finally decided by the chief.
The man in charge of the Internal Affairs Division is Jack Revill. Despite his steel gray hair, it’s difficult to believe he is 50 years old, with 29 years on the Dallas Police Department behind him.
“Twenty-five years ago,” Jack Revill says, “if someone made a remark to me about a police officer, I’d get mad. No, I knew they wouldn’t do whatever it was. Not my fellow officers.”
But now? “Yeah. They’re subject to do anything. Every time someone walks through that door it’s a different story.”
Revill recalls an early crack in his mountain of faith. He was new in the department, working as a motorcycle officer. He’d often seen the night watch lieutenant in charge of detectives, Bob Gurley. Gurley was, he says, “a good-looking man who stood 6-foot-2, weighed 240 pounds, and looked like he’d stepped straight out of Neiman-Marcus. He really projected a professional image.”
Then Gurley was arrested after he was found to have been involved in burglaries on duty. “It just crushed me,” Revill said. “He didn’t live up to my expectations. He disappointed me.”
He says that same sick feeling of disappointment comes over him whenever a serious case is proved against a fellow cop. “There’s a sense of anger, but it’s a different type of anger.”
Asked to name his division’s greatest strength, he first says it’s consistency. Later, he raises the question himself: “I’d have to say that our integrity is more important. . .”
The division’s weakness?
“Compassion.” He leans back in his chair and purses his lips. “It can be a weakness if you let it cloud the issue.”
Revill left the police department in 1968 to head the criminal division of the Texas Department of Public Safety, and later went into private security. He returned to Dallas as a police officer in 1974 and was assigned to Internal Affairs as an investigator. A short time later, he was promoted to lieutenant, and transferred into the Vice Control Division to clean up the narcotics section.
He is proud of the fact that he made all his formerly dishevelled drug investigators cut their hair, shave their beards, and wear suits. It was a unique approach in an area generally considered an “undercover” assignment.
“They looked and acted more like professionals and our arrests increased.”
Whatever Revill did, he was always known as a close friend and colleague of Don Byrd, then Chief of Police. Many observers thought that Revill should have been considered for the chief’s job when Byrd retired, but Revill ruled himself out before the candidates were considered.
Under Revill are IAD’s 11 handpicked investigators. Background checks are conducted on candidates for the division. Their entire police career is examined. They must have extensive street experience and, preferably, investigative knowledge.
The most trusted, respected, feared, and disliked Internal Affairs officer is Charles Elwonger. The description depends on whom you ask. A sergeant with 19 years’ experience, he is undeniably efficient, honest, and single-minded in his attitude toward the criminal justice system. He was drafted to Internal Affairs after a decade in patrol and Homicide and Robbery.
Charlie Elwonger doesn’t speak to please his listener. At one moment, he may discuss his “strong feelings about the police job.” At another, he may defend “freedom of the press,” then list off his complaints about media “sensationalism.”
“The job [of a police officer] needs to be done in the most objective, unemotional manner that you can do it,” Elwonger says. “You can’t let your emotions or personal feelings dictate your decisions – whatever the situation may be.”
He says he can understand an officer becoming so enraged in a volatile situation that he loses control of his emotions. But then he says, “That’s only allowing yourself to be dragged down to the level of the person you’re dealing with.”
As Elwonger speaks, Jack Revill walks into the room: “I don’t think there’s any psychological testing thus far that can identify the type of cop who will get into trouble. Every officer is susceptible to personnel complaints. A lot depends on the circumstances he encounters. If he does his job and he’s making contacts in the field – by the very nature of the job – he’s in an adversary relationship with the citizen.”
But neither Revill nor Elwonger believes the old police cliche that a police officer doing his job well must get a high number of complaints.
Quoting the familiar cry of “Take the handcuffs off our police,” Revill says, “Some handcuffs on the police cannot be removed.”
Part of the reason the controversy about who should police the police has remained unresolved is that both sides have invested too much time in demagoguery, and too little in developing concrete evidence. Proponents of a civilian review board continue to argue blithely that such a body would be more objective than an internal operation. But they can’t prove the claim, and have been conspicuously evasive in responding to the charge that a civilian body – well-intentioned but lacking in investigative expertise – would probably make more mistakes than a police-run operation. The police, for their part, still argue that a civilian board would not only be superfluous, but would exacerbate tensions between police and the public – when, in fact, it can just as easily be argued that it would help to defuse them. Proponents claim a police department is a public trust and by definition can’t be run without citizen involvement. Police respond that there’s a difference between involvement and interference: A civilian board, they say, would only make the already difficult business of law enforcement impossible.
The dearth of supporting evidence on either side is understandable: Since civilian review bodies came into vogue in the Sixties, they have been experimented with only tentatively, and in a handful of cities. Follow-up has been haphazard to nonexistent; where it has been done, the results have been confusing. The few studies that have been performed show that civilian boards do not duplicate or interfere with police investigations; nor do they aggravate tensions between police and the public. But they also show that civilian boards operate within vague legal sanctions: Since their investigative powers are largely informal, they generally have trouble making their findings stick; they are invariably underfunded and understaffed; and, in some cases, their presence constitutes a direct violation of state, county, and city definitions of “police powers.”
The conclusion of most experts on the subject is that citizen review boards can be a useful, even necessary complement to police internal affairs operations; but they cannot be a substitute. In Philadelphia, which employed a citizen review board during the Sixties, the agency evolved into a kind of informal ward-heeler for citizen complaints, many of which did not involve criminal activity or specific abuse of police department policy. Rather, as sociologist James Hudson concluded in an exhaustive study of the system, “. . . in many cases, the complaint involved no charge against a particular officer, but a desire for other measure of redress, restitution or changes in department practices …” A police department internal affairs division remained active during this period, dealing with more serious allegations of police impropriety and recommending specific punishments to the police commissioner. In effect, the civilian review board served as a buffer between the police and the public, a sympathetic ear to which citizens could voice complaints ranging from rude treatment by a traffic cop to harassment. The department’s internal affairs division took the heavier stuff: charges of brutality, false arrest, and official corruption.
Many view such a marriage of functions as the only reasonable compromise. It allows ongoing civilian involvement without hampering law enforcement procedures and policies; it lets the police know that someone else is watching, without diluting their basic authority.
Still, some critics maintain that anything short of a formal non-police agency to investigate charges of police corruption or abuse is a legerdemain. Some cities, bowing to such pressures, have created public ombudsman’s offices, which have formal powers to deal with citizen complaints of police abuse, unresponsive treatment from social service agencies, and unnecessary red tape in the bureaucracy.
The most successful such system is in use at the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department. Recognized as a progressive department, it was headed for several years by Clarence Kelley, who later became director of the FBI.
Kansas City uses an Office of Civilian Complaints, staffed by two appointed civilians and one appointed police officer. Citizen complaints are made to that office, which accepts them without weighing their merits. Complaints are then sent to the KCPD Internal Affairs Division, which investigates and completes a report for the civilian office.
The office then determines whether or not the complaint should be upheld. If it is, it is sent to the chief, who determines punishment.
The present Kansas City police chief, Norman A. Caron, says the system is “superb. It’s a happy medium between the two alternatives.”
Charlie Elwonger felt there was something wrong with Johnny Ray Weedon’s story. At 36, Weedon stood six feet tall and weighed 230 pounds. Yet he would not look Elwonger in the eyes as he spoke; Weedon moved nervously and his voice inflection wasn’t right.
But he had bloody bruises on his face and arms. Weedon had come to the IAD office to complain that two officers had beaten him after he was arrested and handcuffed.
Elwonger picked up a copy of the report filed by the arresting officers. He read over it several times; nothing seemed to fit Weedon’s story. He asked Weedon to repeat details of the incident.
“If you did something to provoke the officer,” Elwonger said, “if you cursed him or whatever, tell us. If the officer over-reacted, we’ll still deal with it. But it’s only when you are totally truthful with us that we can get to the facts.”
Weedon did not budge from his story.
“You understand,” Elwonger said, “that state law requires a complaint against a police officer be reduced to writing?”
Then he repeated the warning given to all complainants.
“You understand that if you file a false complaint, it is a violation and charges can be filed against you.”
The offense, perjury, is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2000 or confinement in jail for up to one year.
In his sworn statement, Weedon said he and his common-law wife, Janice Valentine, were driving down Northwest Highway at 1:30 a.m. He told her to turn into a shopping center where they could get something to eat.
Once in the center’s parking lot, he said, they were stopped by a police car with red lights flashing. A white officer walked to Valentine’s door. A black officer walked to his side and ordered him out, Weedon said.
“He asked for my license and I gave it to him. After he checked it, he gave it back to me. I saw the other officer pushing Janice around and I told him he didn’t need to push her that way, that she hadn’t done anything. The officer with me told me to be quiet. I again said there wasn’t any need to treat her that way, and the officer with me told me to get in the car and be quiet.
“I said, ’What for?’ He said that if I didn’t I would be arrested. I said ’What for?’ and he said, ’Oh, you are resisting.’ I said, ’No, I just don’t want you pushing Janice around.’
“The officer then told me I was under arrest and to put my hands behind me. I did as 1 was ordered and after I was handcuffed, this officer started choking me and threw me to the ground and I urinated on myself.
“Janice ran over to us and yelled, ’What are you trying to do, kill him?’ I was then put in the squad car and put in jail.”
Valentine told an almost identical story. “I heard a gasping noise and I saw Johnny on the ground and the white officer choking him. Johnny was face down on the ground with both hands handcuffed behind him.
“We were brought to jail and while we were being booked, I walked over to the black officer to ask him about Johnny. This officer grabbed me by the arms and pushed me against the wall. This caused me to fall into one of the tall ashtrays.”
The white officer, W.M. Darr, had a different story. He told an IAD investigator that he was working alone that night and stopped the couple’s car because he had seen it weaving in traffic.
He said that, as he was working alone, he asked the woman to step out of the car. He said Weedon then climbed out on the passenger side. Again because he was alone, he ordered Weedon to stay in the car. Weedon became belligerent and Darr told him he was under arrest for public intoxication. He started to handcuff Weedon but got only one wrist shackled, he said. It was then that the fight began. Valentine left and went inside a nearby bar, Darr said.
A 19-year-old youth driving past saw the confrontation, made a U-turn, and came back.
In a sworn statement, he said:
“When I got back there, the officer and the man were down on the ground struggling and fighting. The officer was on the bottom. The man had one handcuff on one wrist. The other end of the handcuff was loose and the man was slinging his arms. The officer appeared to be trying to hold the man and keep him from fighting.”
Jumping from his car, the youth called to Darr, asking if he needed help. Darr told him to call for more police. Seconds later, an “officer needs assistance” call was broadcast.
Captain Ray Hawkins was working an extra shift that night, riding with a lieutenant to try to determine why his area was having an increase in complaints against police. He was passing the scene and saw the flashing red lights at the same time he heard the “assist” call.
The captain, the lieutenant, and black Officer Jesse R. Dawson Jr. were the first to come to Darr’s aid. Valentine then returned. Hawkins told IAD that it took the combined efforts of the three officers to subdue Weedon.
As they prepared to take Weedon and Valentine to the city jail, Captain Hawkins thought of the complaints that had brought him out that night in the first place. “Let’s get that boy’s name and address in case there are any complaints out of this,” he said.
As a result of the teenager’s testimony, combined with the chronology and police records, the charges were classified “unfounded.”
Investigator Robert Browning wrote in his conclusion: “The results of this investigation disclose that the vast majority of Ms. Valentine’s affidavit is, in fact, false.”
A letter was sent to Weedon – written to a standard formula – advising him that the complaint was unfounded. But the case did not end there. In a series of conferences, IAD discussed filing perjury charges against Weedon and Valentine.
Since the enactment six years ago of a state law providing for such litigation, just about any “unfounded” case has had potential for perjury charges. But prior to the Weedon case, only three perjury charges had been filed. The IAD uses the law sparingly because it doesn’t want to deal in “borderline” cases, where there’s question as to the impartiality of testimony.
Revill and Elwonger did, at length, decide it was worth pressing perjury charges against Weedon and Valentine. Before the trial, Weedon and Valentine pleaded guilty and were fined S250 each. It was, Captain Hawkins said, the greatest boost to morale his men had been given in a long time.
At 28, Jim Chandler is the youngest officer in Internal Affairs. A veteran of South Dallas and the Vice Division, he’s been a cop for nine years.
Chandler had his share of preconceived opinions about IAD before he transferred there. He’d heard from “everybody else,” and agreed that IAD was “out to get you.” But then he decided to try it for himself, persuaded by another IAD investigator he’d worked with on an earlier assignment.
Chandler had been in Internal Affairs for two months when Revill got a call one Friday afternoon that he figured could become Chandler’s first case.
Chandler’s baptism was performed unwittingly by Officer Charles J. White, a 34-year-old patrolman whose beat was in far Northwest Dallas. Four days earlier, at 8:39 a.m., White had been dispatched to a burglary call at an address on Grantwood Drive.
When he arrived, he was met by a woman who said that her son, Alvin Holland, lived on the next street and that his house had been broken into. The son, she said, was on a trip to Europe. She’d watered his plants the night before and everything had been in order. When she went there that morning, the place was a shambles.
She had no idea how much was taken in all but she knew it included his Thunder-bird, his station wagon, two color television sets, a stereo system, and a microwave oven.
Officer White found a side window smashed with a rock. He looked through the house, then filed his report by telephone.
Three days later, White said, he was on patrol in the alley behind Holland’s house when he spotted two credit cards lying on the ground. They both were in the name of Alvin Holland – one for Sears and one for Montgomery Ward.
“I put the cards in my briefcase with the intention of turning them in at the first opportunity,” he later told Jim Chandler at the Internal Affairs office.
“Every time I was at the station, I would not remember the cards being in my brief-case. As the days went past, the cards remained in my briefcase and then I took them out and put them in my billfold.”
Officer White said he didn’t know why he did it but that he then called Sears and Montgomery Ward and, after identifying himself as Alvin Holland, asked for the balance. The Ward’s balance was zero; the Sears account was less than $20.
“I don’t know why I called,” he said. “I had no intention of using the cards.”
Friday was his day off and he drove to the Sears store at Ross and Greenville and began browsing through the auto parts.
There, he selected an auto battery which sold for $37.74.
“Cash or charge, sir?”
“Charge.” And Officer White handed the cashier Alvin Holland’s credit card.
The cashier rang up the sale and handed him the ticket. White signed the ticket “Alvin Holland.” He then walked over to the main building in the Sears complex and into the electronic department. He picked out a 40-channel CB radio that listed for $249.95, but was on sale for $100. Then he picked up an AC power-supply converter priced at $29.99.
With sales tax, the charge came to $188.93. The salesman punched it into his desktop computer, then turned back to White. “I’m sorry, sir. The machine won’t accept this. 1 need to call the credit office.”
“Okay.” White stood and waited.
In fact, the clerk was calling a security code. White’s call to Sears asking for the balance had aroused the curiosity of a credit clerk. She had checked Holland’s records and telephoned his home. Indeed, it was not her son, Holland’s mother said. The card must have been stolen in the burglary.
The chief of security for Sears walked up to the counter where White was waiting.
Asked for further identification, White produced the Montgomery Ward card.
“Is that all you’ve got?” the security man asked. “What about a driver’s license?”
“I lost it after I got a DWI,” White said.
The security man asked White to sign another ticket. His signature did not match the one on the back of the credit card.
The security man thought he recognized White. “Are you a police officer?”
“Yes, I am,” White said, then admitted his real name.
The security man called the Northwest District station where White worked, but was referred to Internal Affairs. Half an hour later, Jim Chandler was at the Sears store.
“Effective immediately,” he told White, “you are relieved of your credentials. You also are under arrest.”
Chandler called for a uniformed squad to transport White to the IAD office. White showed no emotion at all until Chandler took him into a secluded office at the back of the IAD squadroom.
“You have the right to remain silent, you have the right to have an attorney present during any questioning. . .” As Chandler read him the Miranda warning, he thought White was going to cry. But when he spoke, his voice was steady and unemotional.
The further they went, the less emotion White displayed. “It was as if nothing had happened,” Chandler recalled.
He watched White escorted off to theGeneral Assignments Section and the CityJail where he was photographed andcharged with credit card abuse – a thirddegree felony with a maximum penalty of10 years in prison.
It was a Thursday afternoon and Roosevelt Ford was 30 minutes away from quitting time, headed back to police headquarters to sign off. He could hear voices on the police radio, but he wasn’t really listening – something about shots being Tired on a city bus. Then a transmission caught his attention.