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City Leaders: Race Matters In Sheriff’s Office Appointment

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Bud Gillett
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DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - A Dallas County commissioner is taking issue with Sheriff Lupe Valdez regarding the race of a deputy she has promoted to her command staff.  Captain Jason Hartgraves is being promoted to chief, and the move will leave only one African-American on the sheriff’s command staff.  Commissioner John Wiley Price found fault with that.

There’s been an informal agreement for decades to have two African-Americans on the command staff.  But when Cheryl Wilson, who is African-American, left to head the Lancaster Police Department, the sheriff promoted Hartgraves, a white male, to her staff.

Price called Sheriff Valdez’s decision “an avoidable miscalculation,” and that she had forsaken a voting community that helps keep her in office.

“Without the African-American community—for which she has forsaken today—she would never have had the privilege of sporting the stars and chevrons of the uniform that she wears daily,” said Price.

Both the sheriff and the man she promoted, Captain Hartgraves, looked on as Price and the head of the mostly-black Dallas County Peace Officers Association criticized her choice. “The signal that I get from the sheriff is we can hire as many blacks as we want, but we can’t occupy the high position,” Lt. Frederick Robinson told the court.

Price continued, “There are a number of individuals who are both academically credentialed and have served in this department with distinction, who are similar or equally—or maybe even superiorly—qualified.”

Price cast the only dissenting vote when commissioners accepted the choice.  Technically, they have no say in the sheriff’s command staff personnel decisions.  Sheriff Valdez expressed disappointment in Price’s move.  “Of course it hurts me personally, we have the same goals, we’re just taking different routes.”

Valdez argues the pool of African-American candidates is smaller because most are detention service officers… uniformed but unarmed jailers whose career paths are limited pretty much to detention services.

Valdez wants to see more of them as licensed, sworn officers in the deputy ranks so she can promote from there.  “And I will continue to work with Commissioner to achieve what’s best for the department,” Valdez said.

“I don’t want to go down the road she’s going,” Price responded.  He said it’s not about race or Hartgraves’ qualifications, it’s that the sheriff’s actions speak louder than words. “It’s one thing to profess one thing, your performance says everything; that’s within her purview.”

With Hartgraves’ promotion, Sheriff Valdez’s seven-member command staff will have one African-American, two Hispanics, and four White members.

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