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With Protesters And Supporters On Hand, President Trump Speaks At Policing Roundtable In Dallas

President Donald Trump rejected calls to defund police during his visit to Dallas Thursday. Trump was in town for a roundtable discussion about policing and race relations, and his first in-person fundraiser since pandemic lockdowns began. 

“We’ll take care of our police," Trump said. "We’re going to make sure our police are well-trained and have the best equipment.”

Trump also said he would pursue an executive order to encourage police departments to meet “current professional standards for the use of force,” while accusing Democrats of broadly branding police as the problem.

The roundtable featured various administration officials, as well as local police leaders like Vernell Dooley, the police chief in Glenn Heights, a suburb south of Dallas. Dooley called for more resources to help officers.

"We need more training," Dooley said. "We need more specific training that's dedicated to service of everyone we interact with on a daily basis."

The discussion was held at the North Dallas campus of Gateway Church, whose founder and senior pastor, Robert Morris, is a Trump religious adviser.

But the three top law enforcement officials in Dallas County were not at the event — Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot, Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall and Dallas County Sheriff Marian Brown. All three officials are black. 

Protesters gather outside Gateway Church in Dallas.
Credit Keren Carrión / KERA News
Protesters gather outside Gateway Church in Dallas.

'More personal accountability' 

Outside the church early Thursday afternoon, dozens of people waited in line to hear Trump speak. Karen Harris drove up from San Antonio.  

"The conversation right now that the media has been following having to do with defunding police forces? Ludicrous idea," Harris said. "Now, do we need some better scrutiny? Absolutely. My opinion would be that we need more personal accountability."

Also waiting outside: Donna Fields from DeSoto, a hair professional. She hoped the president would address other topics, too.

"I'm hoping to hear he is ready to open the economy fully," she said. "Due to COVID, I personally experienced, they shut off all hair salons ... and that's all I knew how to do. That's all I've done for 25 years."

Nearby the church, hundreds of people gathered to protest police brutality, while others showed support for Trump.

'He's not for us'

Bridget Dee of Dallas was among those gathered in support of Black Lives Matter.

"We're hoping to achieve equality," she said. "This president, it seems like he is about himself. He's here to meet his rich donors. He's not for us, and that's what the problem is."

But Rene Torrez said the president is trying to bring the country together during a time of unrest. 

"I truly believe he's open minded to listen to what needs to be worked on and changed," Torrez said. "And I believe he will unite leaders -- to give important opinions from both sides, from all races -- to meet somewhere in the middle and find some sort of compromise. But all of us need to be able to count on law and order. Otherwise, we'll be an unjust nation; out-of-control mayhem and disorder."

Trump's Dallas visit came two weeks after a white Minneapolis police officer put his knee on the neck of George Floyd, killing the black man who grew up in Houston. And the visit came two days after Floyd's funeral in Houston, which featured a video message from Trump's presumed Democratic opponent this fall,  former Vice President Joe Biden.

Floyd's death sparked two weeks of turmoil across the country and the globe, with protesters hitting the streets day after day in city after city, chanting "black lives matter" and demanding an end to police brutality.

Supporters of the president gather outside Gateway Church.
Credit Keren Carrión / KERA News
Supporters of the president gather outside Gateway Church.

NBC reports that the White House will propose a series of policing reformsin coming days.

After the roundtable, the president headed to a private home for a fundraiser, featuring 25 supporters. It was expected to raise $10 million.

Campaign officials told The Dallas Morning News that couples paid $580,600 to dine with the president and have photos taken with him. The newspaper reported the Trump re-election effort will pay for COVID-19 testing for guests at the dinner, co-hosted by Tommy Hicks Jr. He's a Dallas investor and co-chair of the Republican National Committee.

The visit is expected to kick off a return to fundraisers and public rallies for Trump's re-election campaign even as his poll numbers are sliding. A new Public Policy Polling survey this week showed Trump in a dead heat with Biden in Texas. No Democratic presidential candidate has won the state since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Miguel Perez is an assistant producer at KERA. He produces local content for Morning Edition and KERA News. He also produces The Friday Conversation, a weekly interview series with North Texas newsmakers.
Rebekah Morr is KERA's All Things Considered newscaster and producer. She came to KERA from NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., where she worked as a news assistant at Weekend All Things Considered.
Galilee Abdullah is an arts reporter.
Gabrielle Jones has a passion for serving diverse audiences. She is the Audience Editor at KERA in Dallas, Texas.