Midlothian has a small minority population, but the city is just as focused in rejecting police violence against persons of color as many others across the nation are, local officials say.
In a town where no African-American holds an elective office and the biggest protests are typically against property tax assessments, this week’s events did not go unnoticed.
On Sunday evening, ONE Church and pastor Demetrius “Pastor Mac” McClendon hosted a peaceful march down 8th Street, with the event starting at Midlothian Police Department headquarters and ending in downtown. The impromptu event had the full support of MPD, with officers blocking traffic.
No public figure in the city was more vehemently against recent acts of police violence this week than Midlothian Police Chief Carl D. Smith, who released a statement condemning the actions of former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin and three other officers, which touched off more than two weeks of protests following the Memorial Day death of Texas native George Floyd.
“My heart aches knowing that the family of Mr. Floyd will also forever remember how he died, in the custody and at the hands of a police officer,” Smith said. “This is wrong on so many levels and from every professional law enforcement perspective. I have struggled how to express my contempt for the actions of those wearing a uniform that should be a symbol of public trust. How to convey the deep sense of loss and pain for the chaotic environment this person’s reprehensible and criminal action has ignited. What can I share to provide any sense of understanding of how this could have happened?”
Mayor Richard Reno also weighed in with his repudiation of the actions of the Minneapolis officers and others that have made recent news.
“I have been watching events unfold across our nation in response to the underlying issues of racial bias and systemic racism,” Reno said. “As the mayor of Midlothian, I think it is important that all of our leaders speak out against injustice and speak up for those who do not feel heard. Obviously, there is a lot of hurt and anger surrounding the death of George Floyd, along with the underlying issues; understandably so.
“I hope that as a community, we can give each other the space to mourn, the grace to air our grievances in public without fear of judgment or retribution, and that we can offer mercy to each other as we all listen, learn and live accordingly,” Reno continued. “I pray that in our community, we can peaceably demonstrate to show our support for basic human rights and dignity. I pray that the citizens of Midlothian will come together as a community and seek to understand one another. I would be honored to take part in any effort I can to make that happen.”
The public steps Midlothian officials and residents took to reject racial bias were an important statement locally, coming just one week after photographs surfaced of a Midlothian ISD trustee in blackface that were taken at a Halloween party in 2012.
Board member Tami Tobey expressed remorse in a special board meeting last week after the alt-weekly tabloid Dallas Observer published anonymously sourced photos of her and another woman dressed as tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams. Tobey is facing reelection to a second term in November.
Chief Smith said he will meet with any citizen who has concerns with his department’s conduct. He also suggested attending presentations of the city’s Citizens Police Academy, which meets every Thursday evening with meals provided.
The Midlothian Project is another opportunity to get involved with local leadership from not only the Police Department and city administration but with local leadership from MISD, faith-based organizations, and the business community, Smith said.
“I want our citizens, business owners, visitors, and most of all our children to know that the members of Midlothian Police Department pledge to serve you with honor, integrity, and equity,” Smith said. “Our department will not tolerate the mistreatment of any citizen. We will work in earnest to make our citizens of diverse cultural backgrounds feel they have our support. You have my commitment to recruit, select, train, and promote only individuals who share this commitment.”