Speaking at a graduation ceremony for Dallas Police Department sergeants who completed a leadership course May 27, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said he insisted that they become leaders. “I’m not going to take no for an answer.”

Brown spoke briefly at the graduation ceremony of the W.W. Caruth Jr. Police Institute’s Sergeants Supervisory Series. Twenty-nine sergeants were honored at the luncheon at the University of North Texas at Dallas where the classes were held.

Brown said he had to leave early to attend the funeral of Boston Grant, former track coach at South Oak Cliff High School, who mentored him when he was a young man.

“His mission in life while I was in high school was to insist that the young men that he coached be leaders. He didn’t take no for an answer,” Brown said. “I hated running track for him. He would not let us even practice at half speed. It was 100 percent all the time.”

Brown said he had to admit that he adopted a lot of the things he learned from Grant and other mentors. And he said that unless the 433 sergeants—who make up the largest percentage of managers in the Dallas Police Department—implement the leadership principles they learned in the course, “we’re not going to be successful as a department.”

Speaking to Bill Caruth, who was in attendance, Brown said, “The city will be safer because of the Caruth Police Institute.”

Michael Heidingsfield, director of police for the University of Texas System Police, was the graduation ceremony’s featured speaker. He was responsible for revamping the police force for the nation of Iraq in 2004. Now he is responsible for the leadership and operation of the UT System Police and Police Academy. Heidingsfield previously was the senior assistant sergeant at arms for Police Operations and Homeland Security for the United States Senate.

“Management is an assignment that can be given to anyone,” Heidingsfield said. “Leadership is a burden because it carries with it the very high price of leading others, protecting others lives and managing the public safety. And people have to intuitively assess themselves deep inside and make sure they are up to that task.”

Heidingsfield challenged the officers to perform a gut check to see if they are ready to do what Chief Brown expects.

“It is complicated; it is fraught with peril; it is overwhelmed with scrutiny; and it is a relatively thankless task. With all of that as the context of your generation emerging as police leaders, are you prepared to assume that role?”

If leadership is your destiny, “it is time for you to maximize your talents, broaden your vision and embrace the business of policing,” Heidingsfield said. “It is your burden to lead.”

This was only the second sergeants class the Caruth Institute has offered, and for the first time, graduates of its Lieutenants Leadership Series led the course. The intensive classes were designed to provide state-of-the-art leadership development in large-city policing and to prepare the next generation of DPD sergeants to supervise, mentor and manage effectively.

One of the graduates, Sgt. Melquiades Irizarry, said the class will make them better supervisors. The old way of policing was being reactive. They learned how to be proactive and take ownership of problems. The course should be available for all ranks throughout the police department, Irizarry said, so that everyone can be on the same page and move forward with the organization.

“We learned how to think out of the box and learned how the world is evolving. Our relationship with the community was reinforced. Now we have a better understanding of how to communicate with the citizens of Dallas.”

Sgt. Thomas Fry thanked the Caruth family, the police department and the Caruth Police Institute for providing the in-depth training and investing in his and the department’s future.

“I learned conflict resolution; I learned various leadership skills; I learned how to improve myself and the importance of education when dealing with citizens in stressful situations. I believe now I can be a better leader to my officers as well as the citizens of Dallas,” Fry said.

“I believe a better educated police department has definitely proven to be a benefit to the citizens of a community which we serve.”