Rebuilding a unit was a big project, but we had help.
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We started bringing people into the Dallas Police Department’s vice unit just a fraction over a year ago. None of us had ever stood up or rebuilt an entire unit from the ground up, but we all had some idea in mind of the overarching priorities that needed to be stressed — integrity, accountability, transparency, and a general concern for the people we would be encountering on a daily basis. Anyone could assign officers to arrest people and amass numbers in that category, but none of us believed doing so would help Dallas.
We hand-selected outstanding supervisors to lead the unit. And then, we did what seems hard to do sometimes but, when you get down to it, is a pretty simple solution: We asked for help from people who knew more about our problem than we did. We asked the Houston Police Department, the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, the Salvation Army, Mosaic Family Services, Praesidium Partners and a host of others for help rebuilding the Dallas police vice unit. And we got what we asked for.
We got operational training and support from Houston and Irving police; we got support and guidance on building criminal cases from the district attorney’s office; and we got help selecting our new detectives from Mosaic and the Salvation Army, two groups who knew the people we would encounter, from the victims of trafficking to those working the streets as sex workers. Specifically, their support in screening for detectives who would be aligned with our victim-centric mission was critical.
A year later, we’ve had some substantial investigative successes and other jurisdictions reaching out to us, asking how we put it all together and formed our collaborative model. We’re not perfect — we make mistakes and we learn and hopefully grow better with each operation. It has truly been a professional highlight to have a hand in building something I am proud of. I would put this unit up against any as an example of the best of the Dallas Police Department. The unit’s compassion and professionalism are things that all Dallas citizens can be proud of and a source of hope for the future of this department and city.
Max Geron is a major in the Dallas Police Department in charge of criminal investigations. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.