Executive Interview of Calvin Howard

Calvin Howard’s career in public service began in the civil rights era of the 1960s when he enlisted in the United States Air Force – a landmark time period that would set the framework for his entire life.  His military career, both full-time enlisted and reserve, included service as a military police officer, paratrooper and counter-intelligence specialist.  In 1969, after transitioning to reserve duties in the military, Howard attended the Metro Dade (Florida) sheriff’s academy and served as a deputy sheriff until he relocated to Ft. Worth (Texas) in February of 1970.  He started working in the Tarrant County jail as a corrections officer worked his way through the sheriff’s office as a dispatcher, patrol deputy and crime scene / latent print specialist while earning his associate’s degree from the Tarrant County Junior College.  In December of 1972, Calvin Howard took a position with the Dallas (Texas) Police Department.  As a new recruit, he spent five months working undercover narcotics prior to attending the city’s police academy.  He was assigned to the tactical (SWAT) division immediately after completing the academy where he spent two years working special assignments that included the protest and subsequent riot in downtown Dallas after a city police officer shot and killed Santo Rodriguez, an unarmed and handcuffed 12 year-old Mexican-American burglary suspect (Trejo, 2011).  After his time in the tactical division, Howard transferred to the city’s southwest patrol division where he served until he was assigned to the crime scene unit as a crime scene investigator and latent print examiner.  During his time in the crime scene unit Howard completed his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice through Abilene Christian University, helped create the Texas Peace Officers’ Association (now the Greater Dallas Chapter of the Black Police Association) and also met and befriended Manuel “Manny” Vasquez, a civilian employee at the time who would work his way through the ranks of the Dallas Police Department to command level over two decades before being wrongfully terminated in 1999 by Chief Terrell Bolton.  In 1979, Howard was fired from the Dallas Police Department due to an investigation linked to his involvement with the Black Police Association but was reinstated a year later by the civil service board.  Upon his return, Howard was assigned to work in the city’s southeast patrol division where he was appointed as a field training officer and later as a burglary and theft investigator.  Howard returned to the patrol division in 1987 where he worked until he honorably retired from the Dallas Police Department in 1993.  Several years later, Howard took an assignment through DynCorp and relocated to Bosnia with the United Nations International Police Task Force that was formed and modified by resolutions 1035 (1995), 1088 (1996), 1103 (1997), 1107 (1997), 1114 (1997), 1168 (1998) and 1184 (1998) of the United Nations Security Council to train, monitor and advise the law enforcement personnel and forces of Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia while helping to break down the ethnic barriers that preempted the genocidal war and support the missions of humanitarian relief and rehabilitation of infrastructure after the signing of the post-war Peace Agreement (United Nations, 2003).  During his time with the International Police Task Force, Howard served as an advisor to a local police chief, helped create two new police academies and finally served as the United Nations’ advisor the minister of the interior.  Howard was the first American to enter the Serbian side of the war-torn nation after the bombing campaigns ended and the cease fire began.  After returning to the United States for a year, Howard returned to Europe to serve with the United Nations and NATO in Kosovo for a year before taking another assignment with DynCorp in Qatar and then Kuwait Howard returned from overseas to the Dallas area in 2003 fully intending to enjoy retirement; however, he was soon approached by his long-time friend Manuel “Manny” Vasquez who asked him to help quell opposition from segments of the Dallas Police Association, Latino Police Association and Black Police Association in the formation of the Dallas ISD Police Department.  Howard resolved that he would not again put on a badge and gun in his agreement to help his friend; however, he ultimately reactivated his peace officer’s license and was sworn in at the new special jurisdiction law enforcement agency.  Today, Calvin Howard is in his seventh year as a lieutenant with the Dallas ISD Police Department and is the commander responsible for internal investigations, criminal investigations and special events management.

In 1975, eight black officers of the Dallas Police Department – Calvin Howard, Preston Gilstrap, Arthur Busby, George Coleman, Mackeroy Tuck, Simon Young, Shirley Gray and Harold Parks – met in secret to discuss disparate treatment against minority and female officers regarding hiring, promotion, appointment and disciplinary practices within the agency.  They had been warned not to do anything that would openly challenge the department’s biased policies yet they formed the Texas Peace Officers’ Association – Dallas Chapter that would later be reorganized as the Greater Dallas Chapter of the Black Police Association (BPA Dallas, 2011).  The newly formed association came under attack by the Dallas Police Association and the department’s administration after asking for a federal investigation into the biased policies and practices.  The first federal investigator met only with city and police leadership, reviewing only the records provided by those with a lot to hide, and ruled that there was no validity to their complaints.  The association, under the leadership of Calvin Howard, then sent a letter to Senator Ted Kennedy, the new chair of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.  Senator Kennedy sent another federal investigator to Dallas who found the records that had been hidden from the first investigator and ultimately sustained the complaints against the Dallas Police Association and City of Dallas filed by Calvin Howard and the other leaders of the local chapter of the Black Police Association.  The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Treasury Department placed the city on a five year consent decree to institute major changes throughout the police department in the areas of hiring, promotion, appointment and discipline.  The police chief retaliated and initiated a federal investigation of the leadership of the Black Police Association for fraud against the federal government regarding part-time pay through the Dallas Housing Authority.  The entire leadership of the Black Police Association was indicted by a federal grand jury and terminated from employment with the Dallas Police Department.  Two were found guilty after it was discovered they were dating and had helped each other by falsifying entries on each other’s time cards.  Calvin Howard, H.E. Turner and Larry Fields were all tried together as a conspiracy and were found not guilty by the jury in federal district court.  In September of 1979, Calvin Howard sought reinstatement through the city’s civil service board.  While the police chief made every effort to block his reinstatement, the civil service board ruled in Howard’s favor and ordered him reinstated with full benefits, rank, seniority and back pay.  Donald Stafford, the first black deputy chief in the Dallas Police Department, requested Howard be assigned to his patrol division in southeast Dallas and almost immediately appointed Howard as a field training officer.  Howard was the recipient of the national Black Police Association’s Renault Robinson Officer of the Year award and also served as the national chair of the Black Police Association.

Today, Calvin Howard attributes his abilities as a leader in law enforcement to the extraordinary experiences he has had throughout his career.  While he readily admits that his training received through the United States Air Force and the United States Army were more formative of his leadership abilities than his police training, his passion for leadership is easily recognized as having been developed during his tenure with the United Nations International Police Task Force.  Howard believes that his role with the Dallas ISD Police Department is to work to maintain cohesiveness within the different groups, divisions and ranks of the agency by remaining sensitive to the issues of personnel at all ranks and helping to build the relatively young agency to a viable and recognized police force.  He asserts that it is important for leaders to regularly bring new ideas to the table while remembering that their elevated ranks and positions do not necessarily put them in the right.  It is important to remain open to listening to the ideas, suggestions and complaints from subordinates as many leaders, especially many of those who test well and promote quickly, forget how it felt to be at or near the bottom of the chain of command.  Howard believes that one of the most important things for law enforcement leaders to do is “to leave your attitude at the door” (personal communications, September 2011).

Calvin Howard would present a number of suggestions to new and future leaders in the law enforcement profession.  Regardless of rank, leaders must be open minded and maintain both the ability and willingness to communicate at all levels.  Howard asserts that the highest ranking administrators must “regularly communicate with and listen to the man on the ground” (personal communications, September 2011) as a lack of sensitivity is a significant problem among many law enforcement leaders today.  Leaders must also be willing to take advantage of and support the skills and expertise among their subordinates without dictating actions as the boots on the ground will ultimately be the ones to carry out the mission.  Leaders must not be afraid to get out of their offices and walk within their communities – both the family community of their agency and the community in which the agency serves.  Finally, leaders cannot be afraid to make mistakes and must have the integrity to own up to their mistakes as a model of leadership and responsibility to their subordinates and their community.


BPA Dallas.  (n.d.).  About the Black Police Association of Greater Dallas.  Retrieved on September 15, 2011, from http://www.bpadallas.org.

Trejo, F.  (April 28, 2011).  Recalling Protest over ’73 Slaying: Dallas: After Police Killed 12-Year-Old, Thousands Took to Streets.  Colonel6’s Blog.  Retrieved from http://colonel6.com.

United Nations.  (2003).  Bosnia and Herzegovina – UNMIBH – Mandate.  Retrieved on September 16, 2011, from http://www.un.org.

© 2011 – 2014, Jeremy Liebbe. All rights reserved.

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About the author

Jeremy Liebbe holds a Master of Science in Forensic Psychology, holds a Bachelor of Arts in Police Science, and is currently completing a Doctorate of Philosophy in Psychology. He has over a decade of law enforcement investigative experience as a detective sergeant with experience including narcotics, crimes against children, and homicide investigations. As a result of his expertise in complex criminal investigations and forensic mental health Jeremy has earned numerous commendations, lectured throughout Texas and in several other states, authored and co-authored over a half dozen published papers, and has provided expert testimony in over a dozen felony trials.