Dallas County Sheriff Brings Law Enforcement Conversation to DNC Stage

Lupe Valdez, who spoke at the convention, says her department is among the most progressive in the country.

By Rhonda FanningJuly 29, 2016 11:08 am

After the Democratic National Convention, it seems the mantle of American optimism may no longer be the proprietary property of the GOP. Indeed, media noted that among gathered Democrats were constant chants of U.S.A., speeches touting American exceptionalism, explicit rhetorical links between issues of security and Americanism, especially as it contrasts with what might be called Trumpism.

In a primetime speech of the convention last night, Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez – the first openly gay Latina Democrat to be elected sheriff in Dallas County – offered a main point of rebuttal for Democrats accused of ignoring issues of law enforcement.

“When my officers report for duty, they have no idea what might come up that day,” she said in her address. “They don’t know whether the next 911 call will be their last. But they keep answering the call.”

Valdez joins the Standard to talk about her appearance at the DNC. As a woman in her 60s and the youngest of eight children, Valdez’s parents were born around the turn of the 20th century. They grew up in a time of high tensions between Hispanics and what she calls “the establishment.” Her father feared that becoming a police officer would change Valdez’s feelings about the relationship between Hispanic communities and law enforcement.

“My dad had actually seen other Hispanics join a law enforcement unit and turn on their own,” she says, “for no reason at all. Just because that was the culture. … He literally said to me, ‘You’re going to become like the rest of them.'”

Valdez still decided to become an officer, which bothered her father.

On the night Valdez spoke, Hillary Clinton gave a speech closing out the convention that formally nominated her as the party’s candidate for the White House.

“What I really care about right now (is), finally, a woman candidate for president,” Valdez tells the Standard. “I think the fact that I spoke last night was the fact that she was aware of what’s going on in Dallas.”

Valdez says Dallas is among the country’s most progressive police departments because of its community engagement. “We show up,” she says, “because we need to know what our folks are doing.”

In the wake of the police shooting, Valdez says folks in Dallas have been very generous. When she was out at a restaurant, Valdez says ordinary citizens were offering to pick up the tab.

“I rarely paid for my meal, I’m embarrassed to say that,” she says. “But they wanted so badly to do something for us.”

Post by Hannah McBride.