- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 27, 2003

DALLAS — The city’s first black police chief was fired yesterday in a surprise move that some threatened will further ignite racial tensions here.

Terrell Bolton, 45, in a brief press conference, thanked his backers, praised his department and read off a list of things he felt his administration had accomplished. The embattled cop, who was appointed four years ago, said he had been given no reason for his firing.

Speculation from his backers, including some city council members and Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, was that Chief Bolton had been scuttled by Mayor Laura Miller, who had been openly critical of the chief.

In a separate press briefing, City Manager Ted Benavides said the firing was his decision, and his alone. Mr. Benavides added that he had been thinking about it for a while, because of “an accumulation of issues.” Under Dallas’ system, the mayor cannot hire and fire top officials; only the city manager can.

“After four years of Chief Bolton’s leadership I just thought it was time to go in a new direction,” Mr. Benavides said. “I think he’s a really good guy. Sometimes events overtake you.”

Chief Bolton celebrated his 23rd year with the department this week. He has never held any other job.

Mr. Price, the highest-ranking black in county government here, said he knew that Mrs. Miller had promised Hispanics in Dallas that she would get rid of Mr. Bolton if she were re-elected and would name a Hispanic to the post. “We were aware of all that,” Mr. Price said.

One black city councilman, James Fantroy, predicted last week that if Chief Bolton were replaced, there would be racial turmoil in the city. Yesterday, he said he was “scared” that his prediction would come true.

Bob Lydia, president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, disagreed, adding, “We’ve come a long way. We aren’t going to have a race riot. I think there are going to be people who are upset. I think we pick up the pieces and we go after the best chief available.”

Bob Hinton, a lawyer friend of the deposed chief, blamed the firing — which he termed unjustified — on the mayor. He said the ousted chief’s career had been severely damaged by the “unwarranted firing.” Asked whether he planned to file a lawsuit, Mr. Hinton refused to reply, but said, “It isn’t over yet.”

When Chief Bolton was promoted to the post in October 1999, he vaulted over several higher-ranking officers, some of whom he quickly demoted and reassigned. That cost the city millions after civil litigation and caused a handful of well-regarded officers to go elsewhere.

A year later, the department faced one of its most embarrassing scandals, as officers reportedly made dozens of cocaine raids, only to have prosecutors and journalists discover that the “evidence” in the cases was ground gypsum, not cocaine.

Scores of cases had to be dropped and dozens who had spent time in prison on the false charges have either filed civil lawsuits or plan to do so. Eventually felony charges against almost 80 individuals were dropped by the Dallas County district attorney’s office.

Some opined yesterday that Mr. Bolton’s future was harmed even further a few days ago when national crime statistics indicated that the murder rate in Dallas was far greater per capita than all the nation’s major cities, including New York and Washington.

Mr. Bolton at the time argued that no matter what the current figures showed, the city’s crime rate was considerably down from the early 1990s. That elicited a spate of angry phone calls and comments to local talk shows and newspaper editors.

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