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BADGE OF BLAME

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SPART Unlike those ducks in the old saying, Dallas park police officers look like cops, walk like cops, and make arrests like cops-but they aren’t. According to the city of Dallas, they’re just civilians who carry big guns but can’t share in police pension plans, early retirement plans, or even promotions. And that’s the basis of a $10 million lawsuit filed by the park police against the city, scheduled for an August hearing in state court.

The suit contends that when the park police merged with the police department in October 1986, park police officers were guaranteed status and privileges they’ve never received, among them the ability to transfer to DPD without enduring rookie status and the subsequent drop in pay. The park patrollers also gripe about waiting more than four years to get official DPD badges, which were doled out this past March following multiple fights between park officers and people who didn’t believe they were “real” cops because of their unfamiliar badges.

Court records indicate that city officials, while apparently negotiating in good faith, simply didn’t foresee some of the obstacles that would complicate the merger. For example, park officers also claim they were told they could take the civil service exam required to become a genuine police officer, only to find out the day before the test that city codes forbade them from even taking the exam. Dallas Police Association President MONICA SMITH says that from the beginning she was “concerned that we [DPD] may be promising things that can’t be done.”

Nine-year veteran park officer AL PAGAN contends that the city has repeatedly refused to compromise with the park police because of “political reasons,” including promises he and others say were made to placate Smith, (Smith says the allegations are groundless.) And although the Dallas Police Patrolman’s union backs the lawsuit, Pagan says he’s upset because the city could have avoided the whole legal imbroglio. “But they tend to discriminate against.. .numbers. Because we’re so small, they say, ’To hell with you.’”

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