Activist groups call for Dallas ISD to dismantle its police force

The call to defund or dismantle police in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer is extending beyond city police departments into schools

Five social justice organizations sent a letter to Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa wanting the district to divest money it spends on security and monitoring services.

They wrote: “The reality is that many students of color in particular actually feel less safe when officers are assigned to their campuses.”

Hinojosa said dismantling the school police department is not an option.

“I want to be very clear. That’s not gonna be my recommendation. We depend on our officers for safety and security, and we expect our officers to build relationships with students. “Now, the letter was very pointed. There are things that we might need to look at and see if we can do better. However, we have no plans to defund the police department, It’s a big part of our strategy for safety and building relationships with our students.”

The groups say the district earmarked nearly $24 million in the 2019-2020 budget for security and monitoring. The letter urges the district to follow the lead of Portland, Oregon, and Minneapolis public schools and by divesting in school policing.

Hinojosa says Dallas is different from Minneapolis because the officers in Dallas schools are district and not city police.

“We have our own chief. We have our own department. We have our own rules. I don’t have to depend on the Dallas police chief or the city manager of the mayor to be able to control issues that we have,” he said. “I haven't walked in their shoes, so I can’t relate to everything they're saying. Although, being an ethnic minority and being an immigrant that grew up in Oak Cliff, I can relate to part of that. But I haven’t had to worry as much as some of the African Americans have had to.”

The superintendent points to the January shooting and killing of a student during a basketball game at the Ellis Davis Field House as an example of needing police.

“If we did not have our police officers that evening, people would have been hurt badly. The fact that we had numerous police officers in that gym when that event occurred… Also, we think of Santa Fe and Sandy Hook and all the other things,” Hinojosa said. “Parents would never forgive us if something happened safety-wise to their kids.”

Hinojosa says the districts made new decisions to stop suspensions understanding how that can ultimately lead to a student getting into the system and the pipeline to prison.