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Racism Is A Public Health Crisis, Dallas County Declares

John Wiley Price is the longest serving Commissioner in Dallas County, and the only Black member.
Bill Zeeble
John Wiley Price is a longtime Dallas County commissioner.

Dallas County Commissioners have unanimously passed several resolutions directly targeting bias and racism.

Commissioner John Wiley Price’s resolution declares racism a public health crisis.

The resolution calls on the county to “identify specific activities to further enhance diversity” and to ensure anti-racism principles across the Commissioners Court. Officials will promote equity through policies approved by the commissioners and enhance efforts aimed at understanding, addressing and dismantling racism.

During Tuesday's meeting, Price said black residents suffer more heart disease, cancer and strokes.

“Black residents also have higher levels of infant mortality, lower birth rates, and more likely to be overweight or obese, have adult diabetes, have long-term complications from diabetes and report poor mental health,” Price said.

Commissioners also approved a resolution saying people who break minor laws should not be arrested, but instead cited and released.

Commissioner J.J. Koch said this will free up police to spend time where they’re most effective.

“We need to focus on where does a guy with a gun need to be,” he said. “I hope this is a first step in working with our municipalities to allow officers to cite and release these folks without wasting their time. They’re never going to wait in booking – they’re going to be there and available to do the things that we really need them to do, that we desperately need them to do.”

Koch said arrests for minor offenses too often involve people of color. Cite and release offenses include marijuana possession, graffiti, and driving with an expired license.

Commissioners also declared June is LGBTQ Pride Month in Dallas County, in coordination with national Pride Month.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.