A week after Dallas was hit with riots, the mayor of another North Texas city—who faces re-election this November—attended a “Black Lives Matter” rally, where he claimed Burleson has experienced, and continues to experience, racism. His response to BLM is confusing, because while he promised to listen to them and take action, he has also stated he’s against defunding the police—the organization’s nationwide demand.
On June 5, after cities across America endured riots, Burleson Mayor Ken Shetter spoke at a BLM rally in his city.
Shetter is the son of State Sen. Beverly Powell (D–Burleson).
“We’re listening to you,” he told the crowd.
“There’s something that you deserve to hear that hasn’t been said enough, and that is the acknowledgement that in this community, like so many others, there is a history of racism, and there is racism that occurs today,” he said. “I don’t know if there’s anybody that’s said they’re sorry for it, but they sure as heck should have.”
“And so, I just want to say I’m sorry,” Shetter said.
Citizen Maggie Wright, who is working with Shetter’s opponent in the November election, Chris Fletcher, disagrees. “I don’t see the racism that he is speaking of in the past and now,” she said. “We have lived here in the rural area of Burleson since about 1970.”
“We have all different races in our church and our city. I just haven’t seen the problem that he speaks of,” she continued. “I just see this as a way to divide the people!”
Citizen Cole Barker posted on social media about another incident he claims involves Shetter discussing racism.
Texas Scorecard asked Shetter to describe the history of racism in Burleson that he mentioned at the rally, and if he has noticed racism within city government.
“It’s a history similar to other communities that experienced ‘white flight’ population mini-booms in the ’50s and ’60s,” he replied.
“That ‘white flight’ had a hangover effect that involved overt and covert racism. I went to Burleson public schools from kindergarten through graduation, and I never remember starting and finishing a school year with a black classmate. Not only does a community have to work hard to extinguish the vestiges of overt and covert racism, but it has to overcome the reputation, as well.”
“As I was born in 1972, I can’t speak to … historic racism involved the city government,” he added.
At the rally, Shetter expressed confidence in the Burleson police but promised BLM he would take action.
“The commitment that I’m going to make to you is that I’m not just going to say I’m standing with you,” he said. “I’m going to put actions behind my words, and my deeds, and what you’re teaching me, and I’m going to start by asking questions that I haven’t been asking for 15 years.”
“I ask a lot of questions about how we do policing, but I’ve left out a lot,” he continued. “I started to write those questions, but I have purposely waited to finish my list until I finish hearing what you have to say.”
After Shetter mentioned he would be listening to BLM activists, Texas Scorecard asked about the nature of those conversations and the subsequent questions he asked the Burleson Police Department. We also inquired as to the department’s responses to his questions, as well as what changes Shetter has implemented.
“Actually, I didn’t say anything about activists—I mentioned that I was listening to the people, mostly Burleson residents, who were gathered in Burleson on that day,” Shetter replied. “The questions I had prepared were consistent with the ‘8 Can’t Wait Campaign,’ which Chief Cordell addressed at the July 20, 2020, city council meeting.” (Readers can view a video of the presentation here.)
“As I said on June 5, I have near absolute confidence in our police department when it comes to equal application of the law,” he continued. “While that trust has been earned, I recognize my obligation to do a better job of thinking critically and asking questions.”
While Shetter claimed he would listen to BLM and take action, his response below on BLM’s nationwide demand raises further questions.
“You asked others about their views on defunding the police,” he replied. “Though you didn’t ask me, I would like to add my two cents: I am not a proponent of defunding the police.”
“We should always strive to improve our policing practices and search for ways to improve training and policies and procedures with the goal of achieving more just and equal application of the law,” he continued. “That does not mean we should defund the police or leave them insufficiently equipped to protect us from well-armed and often well-organized criminals.”
“For my entire career as mayor, I have made public safety my top priority,” he went on. “In the current budget, we added six new sworn law enforcement positions and four new public safety dispatch positions. I challenge state officials to think twice about their efforts to limit local government revenue in ways that may make it difficult to meet public safety needs and provide for other basic city services.”
Voters will decide between Shetter and Fletcher for mayor, while also deciding who will sit in Places 2, 4, and 6 on the city council. Early voting begins on October 13 for the November 3 election.
Citizens may contact Mayor Shetter and Burleson City Council members.
Place 1 Councilmember Stuart Gillespie: firstname.lastname@example.org; 817-426-9692
Place 2 Councilmember Rick Green: email@example.com; 817-426-9693
Place 3 Councilmember Katherine Reading: firstname.lastname@example.org; 817-381-9414
Place 4 Councilmember Todd Hulsey: email@example.com; 817-426-9695
Place 5 Councilmember Dan McClendon: firstname.lastname@example.org; 817-426-9697
Place 6 Councilmember Ronnie Johnson: email@example.com; 817-426-9698
Mayor Ken Shetter: firstname.lastname@example.org; 817-426-9691