A former Dallas police chief who was fired after a string of controversies has been added to the list of finalists to head the DeKalb County Police Department.
Terrell Bolton became the first African-American police chief of Dallas in 1999. He quickly shook up the top level of the large Texas department, demoting several commanders. The city later paid $5.5 million to settle legal claims by demoted officers, according to reports in The Dallas Morning News.
Bolton was fired in 2003 after other controversies, including a scandal over officers making drug busts with fake evidence and an officer who was hired despite failing a polygraph test about an unsolved murder.
DeKalb Chief Executive Officer Vernon Jones said Thursday he was aware of the Dallas controversies before he interviewed Bolton and three other finalists recently.
“Do you think I’m stupid?” Jones said. “I wanted to know everything about everyone before I interviewed them.”
Jones said that the Dallas controversies apparently were politically motivated, but he said more “fact-finding” will be done before he makes a decision.
Bolton, a 23-year veteran of the Dallas police force, was supported by some black ministers after his firing. Bolton told a church congregation at the time that the city manager who fired him had been “tricked by Satan,” according to an account by the Dallas Morning News.
Bolton said Thursday he has “moved on” since the strong words of those days. In a telephone interview, he blamed the Police Department controversies on political conflicts.
Jones said “every one of [Bolton’s] performance evaluations were excellent.”
Dallas’ mayor did not return a telephone message left for her late Thursday afternoon.
As for news accounts of controversies in the Dallas Police Department, Jones said, “What’s written by the news media means about as much to me as a hog with lips.”
Asked about the legal settlements in Dallas, Jones said, “I am aware that from New York to California to Miami to Washington state, that governments pay settlements for lawsuits, including DeKalb County.”
In DeKalb, four current and former employees of the parks department have filed a federal lawsuit contending they were victimized by a widespread effort under Jones to hire and promote black employees at the expense of whites.
Those employees are represented by former DeKalb District Attorney J. Tom Morgan, who often has been at odds with Jones.
Morgan, told about the news accounts of Bolton’s Dallas tenure, said Thursday, “With all the discrimination lawsuits that have been filed against DeKalb County and that are currently pending, one would think that you would not want an individual who has been the subject of such a lawsuit and has lost.”
Though the search committee did not name Bolton to its list of three finalists, the panel did regard him as a “very well qualified candidate,” said Keith Adams, a criminal defense attorney who served on the committee.
Adams said committee members discussed the Dallas controversies with Bolton, and “we were satisfied that there wasn’t anything in his history . . . that gave us pause. We still thought he was a good candidate.”