EL PASO, Texas — After El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen called Black Lives Matter a “radical hate group,” 13 area leaders called on the mayor and city council to repudiate his comments.
Allen made the claim after a press conference of El Paso law enforcement officials on Friday. Allen didn’t speak at the conference, but afterward a reporter asked him what he would say to Black Lives Matter supporters who have planned a vigil for victims of police shootings on Sunday.
“Black Lives Matter, as far as I’m concerned, is a radical hate group,” Allen said. “For that purpose alone I think the leadership of this country needs to look a little bit harder at that particular group. The consequences of what we saw in Dallas is due to their efforts.”
Late Saturday, several state officials and local groups issued a letter calling for El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser and the city council representatives to “publicly repudiate the statement, forcefully and unequivocally.”
“This statement, in the chief’s official capacity and in uniform, sends exactly the wrong message at a time when good people are working to address a crisis of violence and distrust that disproportionately affects minority communities,” the letter read in part.
Signees included local Democratic lawmakers U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke; state Sen. José Rodríguez; state Reps. César Blanco, Joe Moody and Mary González; County Judge Veronica Escobar; representatives for the NAACP and ACLU; and Evelina Ortega, who is expected to win the Texas House District 77 seat in November.
The Tribune could not reach Allen or Leeser for comment.
In an interview with the El Paso Times, O’Rourke said Allen’s comments maligned the organizers of Sunday evening’s planned vigil, which is set to be hosted by the Black Student Union at the University of Texas at El Paso and the El Paso chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
“One thing that causes me concern is that the chief of police in our community has identified a group of El Pasoans — who want to peacefully protest at San Jacinto Plaza on Sunday — in part responsible for the death of the officers in Dallas,” O’Rourke said. “I think that sets up a very troubling and unnecessary dynamic between the police and some of the people in this community.”
Allen, El Paso’s first African-American police chief, has led the force since 2007 and has previously criticized what he sees as undue scrutiny of police officers. In 2008, he removed the department’s requirement that officers involved in a shooting take a polygraph test afterwards. In a 2011 interview with the newspaper the El Paso Inc, he said that “mistrust of the officer” could cause police to hesitate in high-stakes situations.
In 2013, officer Jose Flores shot and killed a handcuffed man, Daniel Saenz, at the El Paso County Jail. A grand jury declined to indict Flores. He was later fired from the force. Saenz’s family filed suit against the city for violating constitutional rights, but the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the case in February.
Allen was not the only law enforcement official to blame the Black Lives Matter movement for the Dallas shooting. On Sunday afternoon, the Fort Worth Police Officers Association — the city’s police union — took to social media to condemn Pandora Radio for a Facebook post that said in part, “Our hearts ache for all those who unfairly lost their lies. We stand with marginalized communities” and included the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.
“We urge law enforcement supporters around the world to DELETE the Pandora Radio app from their devices,” the police union’s post read. “Pandora Radio openly supports an organization that chooses to MURDER American law enforcement officers.”
The president of the Dallas Police Association, Ron Pinkston, has said protestors are not to blame for the violence that unfolded Thursday night.
“All those people weren’t out there shooting police. It was a few,” Pinkston said, according to the Houston Chronicle. “And we can’t label those people like those few. And we won’t do that.”