Open Letter to Sheriff Marian Brown from Dallas County

July 31, 2018

Sheriff Marian Brown
133 North Riverfront Boulevard
Dallas, Texas 75207

I am the proud wife of the recently fallen Deputy, Homero “Cal” Calderon. My name is ShaRonda Young Calderon. I wanted to take the opportunity to offer you my condolences for the death of morality within the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department. I feel these condolences are befitting to such a loss, even if you did not feel that it was befitting of you, as the interim Sheriff of Dallas County, to personally reach out to me to offer your condolences, for the loss of my husband. Your lack of honor, integrity, and loyalty to the badge has left a wound far deeper than Calderon’s death alone. Your stance against this remarkable brotherhood has resonated nationwide, and I have heard their cries.

My husband honorably served the department for eighteen years. He was hired in 2000 as a Detention Service Officer, to which he was noted as an exemplary employee. In 2008 he was sworn in as a Deputy for the department and worked his entire career in the Warrants and Execution section, maintaining the same level of exemplary status until his death.
You stated in an interview “This tragedy has touched each of us in different ways. We, in public safety, have difficult jobs that come with unique challenges and dangers, coupled with regular life stressors that make it easy for us to become overwhelmed. As law enforcement professionals, we often mask emotion to do our jobs on a day-to-day basis helping people and we forget or ignore that we often need help ourselves.” This is an accurate statement and depiction of the life of law enforcement professionals. However, the events, or lack of, that unfolded after you made this statement contradicts as well as disrespects, not only my husband, but all law enforcement professionals. You described Calderon and every officer under your command perfectly in that statement. If this was indeed your personal statement to the media, then where was your empathy, your compassion, your understanding, your love?

“Deputy Calderon was an integral part of our law enforcement team and member of our family at large.” Obviously, this was not a genuinely heartfelt statement. In fact, it appears to be an appropriately generic statement generated for public approval only. As I read your statements, it became more and more incomprehensible as to why you behaved in the manner in which you did. If it was documented that my husband was troubled, and I called the department for help, why did you order his fellow officers to stand down? I’m not sure if the continued search for him would have made a difference in the outcome, but it sure would have given me peace that you cared enough and tried. Therefore, your actions of refusal to merely search for him, discredits your statement describing him as a “family member at large.”
The horrible thing about suicide particularly is the lack of closure, coupled with the debilitating unanswered questions of why. I am plagued daily with the many what if’s, as well as the would of’s and could of’s. I can’t ask my husband why this time and expect an answer to make me feel better. Speculation unfortunately is my only medication. However, I can ask you. Why did you feel my husband was not worthy of receiving honors? My husband was due the same honor as any Dallas County Sheriff employee. Was his 18 years of dedicated service not good enough for you? Let us highlight the facts that throughout his entire tenure with the department he had zero infractions on any level. Please do not ignore he was dependable, hardworking, never abused sick time, and always completed every task given. You also stated in an interview “it is the responsibility of the leadership of the department to make decisions that are deemed best for the department. Due to the nature of Deputy Calderon’s death, the Sheriff’s department does not want to condone nor appear to glamorize suicide.” This statement totally contradicts your initial statements describing the difficulties and expectations of law enforcement professionals. In fact, this statement is a direct representation of your own personal feelings as well as an introduction to the ruler and governor of your heart.

Your decision to not honor my husband was met with scrutiny and disgust, from your department, the community, as well as other police agencies nationwide. I ask you, how was this decision deemed best for the department? Allowing my husband to receive the honors he deserved was not condoning, nor glamorizing suicide. Your insensitive attitude towards suicide condones it. As a leader, you should understand the intricacies of mental health issues, especially within the law enforcement community. As a leader, you should have used my husband’s tragedy as an example of hope instead of controversy. This tragedy, MY tragedy, should have been used as a catalyst to steer head proactive ideologies to dismantle the negative stigmatizations placed upon mental health issues. Because we all, as humans, have dealt with some level of mental health issues. It is just to the level of degree in which we are able to cope or not cope that dictates our functionality. It is your responsibility to display compassion and understanding towards this human issue. Your comment only glamorizes your ignorance of mental health issues. Depression is a disease, to ignore or undermine the levels of darkness and control it is capable of having on an individual, is a direct injustice to its very nature. Your comments were basically saying to the public, an individual in crisis is acting with their logical mind and made a logical decision to end their life. This is illogical thinking within itself. As humans, our instinctual basic drive is to preserve and protect our lives. To do anything of the latter is a clear indication of unconscious agendas driven by neurochemistry and other biochemistry factors.

With extreme levels of depression, or someone experiencing a crisis, the decision-making capabilities have been compromised by the brains illness. Obviously, it is not a choice given by way of free will. It becomes a compulsion, and we all should know that a compulsion is not an act of free will. Therefore, it is inhumanly possible for anyone within their logical mind to glamorize or condone suicide. However, you logically made the decision to make such an atrocious statement without regards to his grieving family and friends. You used your free will to attend my husband’s memorial only after you were notified the media was there. You refused to offer any support from the county level but used my husband’s funeral as a political move. Not only did you disrespect him, but you disrespected our family as well. Are you aware of how devastating it is to lose your husband as well as deal with the confusion and controversy surrounding it? The way our family was treated almost felt personal, and I don’t understand why. Refusing Calderon honors meant you were refusing our family honor, you were refusing his brothers and sisters in blue honor. I have to live the rest of my life without the love of my life. My children must cope with the absence of their father. The honors were not only for Calderon, it was for his family blood and blue. It was to honor a man that was dedicated to the Sheriff’s Department for 18 years, who put his life on the line every day to serve his community.

The way you mishandled my husband’s honor, as well as the disrespect to the badge in general, can’t be changed. I pray going forward that you educate yourself on mental health issues and dedicate your tenure as Sheriff to supporting your officers and encouraging them to take care of themselves, mentally as well as physically. I give you my permission to use my husband’s tragedy as a platform to educate and preserve life.
Are you aware that suicide is increasing across the United States at an astronomical rate? On average 11 to 12 police officers commit suicide monthly. One of those officers was in your own house. How are you to expect your officers to display compassion and sensitivity towards individuals with mental health issues, within the community, when you refused to show compassion and sensitivity, within your own department. Where the head leads the body will follow. How are you to expect the community to back the blue, when the Sheriff of Dallas County refuses to back the blue. The message you have sent to your officers is that you do not care about them. Officers under your watch are now afraid to seek help because of your blatant stance regarding their health and lives. My husband was human, the officers under your watch are human too, treat them as such.

July 5th 2018 was by far the hardest day I have ever endured. It was unfathomable that I had to say goodbye to the other half of my heart. It was the saddest day for me. However, I have never felt so proud to be his wife. To see his brothers and sisters in blue proudly standing together with heads held high, in spite of the negative controversies surrounding him. The image of unity and love will forever be branded into our hearts and minds. To actually be a part of the brotherhood my husband so proudly chose for his life.
You failed my husband several times, you failed our family, you failed the community, you failed the entire Sheriff’s Department as a whole. Most importantly, you failed the badge, because you refused to walk with integrity and display professionalism. As a leader it is your responsibility to make sure your troops are ok. Colin Powell once quoted “The day the soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either way is a failure of leadership.” I forgive you for the way you treated my family in our time of need. I forgive you for the unjust treatment your officers had to endure by your command. I pray that you take this time to reflect over your actions and use Calderon’s death as a pivotal circumstance of great opportunity to uplift your officers and show them they are valued. My husband’s tragedy is a wake-up call to prove superman is not real. “The manner in which Deputy Calderon died,” should be used to enforce the needs to take care of one self and each other, as well as implement easier ways that it may be done. I pray you educate yourself over this growing epidemic and pass that education down to your brothers.
You should be very proud of the staff under your watch. These individuals have displayed loyalty, honor and integrity despite the negative situation preventing them from doing such. I am thankful and honored on the behalf of my Husband, Deputy Homero Calderon.

Respectfully Submitted

ShaRonda Young Calderon