DALLAS — Hours after blatant racism by a Dallas police officer surfaced, a Dallas police major apologized.
“It’s sickening and disgusting,” Major Jim Lewis told a room of people at the Polk-Wisdom Branch Library during a previously scheduled “meet and greet” between community members and Dallas police officers who work under Lewis at South Central patrol.
The meeting, organized by Dallas city council member Tennell Atkins, had been on the calendar for Aug. 31 for a while.
The Wednesday night event turned out to be perfect timing.
On Tuesday night, DPD said administrative staff learned that a police officer posted on social media a picture of a new challenge coin designed to commemorate South Central Patrol’s 15 years in existence.
The coin was being offered for sale.
It was full of blatantly racist images, said Terrance Hopkins, president of the Black Police Association of Greater Dallas.
The coin featured a Pillsbury Dough Boy holding cash and a gun at an apparent drug house.
The character had gold teeth and was holding an assault rifle in one hand and a stack of cash in the other.
A Dallas police car and a purple car with large rims were visible, as was "Big 'T' Plaza,” a shopping center in South Oak Cliff.
Hopkins said the dough boy refers to a movie where the main character is a drug dealer.
He said the images make community member ask questions like, “Is this the way white officers view us in our community? Is this the only vision they have of Black people?”
The police officer is on leave pending an investigation and Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia said at a news conference with Hopkins that he would not tolerate racist behavior.
“This may have happened at the Dallas Police Department before I got here, but it’s the first time it’s happened since I’ve been here and I’m going to tell you I’m not having it,” Garcia said. “It’s not going to happen on my watch.”
Lewis echoed the chief’s remarks at the town hall meeting, which happened hours after news of the coin’s design became public.
“Let me apologize as the commander over the officers that work this area,” Lewis said. “We failed in this instance.”
Lewis told the crowd he knew damage had been done.
But Atkins said he trusted it could be repaired with the internal investigation now underway.
“Racism is not over with,” Atkins said.
Community members who attended the meeting questioned whether the officer who designed the coin acted alone.
“There are other people in this as well and we need to get to the bottom of that,” one woman told Atkins and Lewis.
In 2019, before Garcia took over at DPD, racist texts between Dallas officers surfaced during the murder trial of former officer Amber Guyger who was found guilty in the death of Botham Jean.
That same year, a nationwide investigation revealed racially insensitive social media posts from officers across the country - including members of DPD - that led to disciplinary action for some.
Rev. Michael Waters, lead pastor of Dallas’s Abundant Life African Methodist Episcopal Church and a longtime community leader, sees a disturbing pattern.
“It’s a sickening depiction of Black life and it’s terrifying for me and terrifying for the in the south central area of Dallas,” he said of the coin.
“It comes from a very horrid history in our nation of Black people caricature that allows for the dehumanization of Black people.”
He called for DPD to do “deep internal reflection” about what needs to be done to shift culture.
“This has an impact on the psyche of police officers and how they encounter the residents they’ve sworn an oath to serve,” he said.