'This is for real': Inside Cowboys QB Dak Prescott’s mission to build trust, alter police training (2022)

ARLINGTON, Texas — In a sprawling outdoor venue nestled between the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium and the Texas Rangers’ Globe Life Field, Dak Prescott occupied the farthest left chair on stage.

Beside the Cowboys QB sat two city police chiefs, a local school district superintendent, a mental health specialist, and two high school students of color. Prescott'stown hall was underway. The goal: Build trust between law enforcement and youth, humanizing members of each community. Prescott urged panelists and the student audience alike to speak honestly.

“How do y’all handle situations with people who are African Americans when they’re not being obedient, when they’re not understanding the situation, or when they’re not cooperating?” asked one teenage male of color during the Q&A portion. “Because it seems like y’all handle situations differently from Caucasians to African Americans.”

Asked a female student: “Do you think brutality is based off poverty?”

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'This is for real': Inside Cowboys QB Dak Prescott’s mission to build trust, alter police training (1)

Attendees said they valued the chance to ask these questions in asafe and open-minded forum. They also appreciated Prescott, who propelled roughly 200 students of color to spend a sunny Wednesday evening in May with local law enforcement.

“People in their mind today were like, ‘Oh, we’re going to see Dak,’” Dallas Carter High senior Aliya Larzeia said. “But at the same time, we’re going to be able to discuss our problems and how we feel.”

Prescott began his mission to build trust between law enforcement and communities of color after George Floyd was murdered by a Minnesota police officer in May 2020. The following week, Prescott pledged $1 million to “improve our police training and address systemic racism through education and advocacy in our country.”

“I couldn’t silence my inner voice anymore,” he told USA TODAY Sports. “Eventually I said, ‘I’ve got to do something.’I’ve got to do something bigger than asking questions ... and I hope you all hold me accountable to it.”

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In a 2021 USA TODAY/Ipsos poll, 77% of Black Americans said police don’t treat all Americans equally (54% of white respondents agreed). While Blacks make up 12.9% of the Texas population, they accounted for 16.2% of 2021 traffic stops in the state and 32.5% of physical force incidents, according to a racial profiling data analysis conducted within the Texas A&M University system. The research authors recommended further analysis since “dynamics of the situations are not included in the data.”

Locally, two white officers have been convicted of murdering unarmed Black malesin the last five years. Dallas-based civil rights attorney David Henderson characterizes local Black sentiment not as angry or hostile.

“We’re scared of the police,” Henderson told USA TODAY Sports, “even when we need to call them for help.”

Through town halls and training, Prescott hopes to shift that dynamic.

After two years of research, several local grassroots events, and three sessions testing training curricula with officers and educators, Prescott’s Faith Fight Finish Foundation (FFF) has signed a deal with national public safety policy and training platform Lexipol, Prescott and Lexipol confirmed to USA TODAY Sports. Lexipol will transform a Prescott-curated law enforcement curriculum into virtual training that, with Prescott’s funding, will be nationally available and free. The course is scheduled to be filmed in mid-September and available by the first quarter of 2023. Lexipol has a presence in all50 states and will market the course to its more than 10,000 customers.

"A continuous education and a way to weed out those who don’t truly have it in their heart to serve their communities,” Prescott said of his goal. “I’ve got to put all these police officers and I’ve got to put the community in uncomfortable positions for us to grow and create this empathy so we can educate each other that we are the same.”

Prescott’s determination to build trust has surprised local officers and community members. Jaime Castro, the Dallas Police Association Third Vice President and Latino Community Liaison, recalled his initial impression after a chance encounter turned into a more-than-hour-long discussion.

“I was like, ‘Dak, I’m going to be honest: We’ve never had anyone your status ever come to us and say, ‘What can I do to help?’'"said Castro, who now serves on Prescott’s advisory committee. “This is for real. He really does care about what we’re talking about.”

Can trust be rebuilt?

Prescott was emotional in a four-page Instagram post on June 3, 2020.

“I have the utmost respect for those of you with a passion for protecting and serving our communities,” he wrote in partin his statement. “(But) how can you claim to uphold the law when those within your own ranks don’t abide by it? You need to hold your own accountable!”

“As long as cops continue to profile blacks as a threat, cops will continue to be perceived as untrustworthy,” he wrote later in the post. “I stand to help our streets and communities trust one another!”

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Prescott had decided his goal. The next question: How?

“We first educated ourselves about the differences in law enforcement (training requirements),” Prescott said. “And that was a mind-blower to me. That was almost a step back like, ‘Man, this may be tough.’”

Prescott mulled systemic concerns also, and a conversation with his uncle resonated. He recalled his uncle saying: “We should just get rid of the word ‘racism.’”

“Say it’s hate,” Prescott said. “Because at this point, it’s learned … so my point is I need to teach to unlearn. And the only way to unlearn is to educate.”

Research led Prescott and FFF executive director Shannon Mabrey Rotenberg to Council for Strong America’s eight-module CYCLE (Connecting Youth and Communities with Law Enforcement) curriculum. Courses covered de-escalation, communication, implicit bias and adolescent brain development.

After discovering how inconsistent officer mental wellness support was — Castro told Prescott he had not interacted with a mental health professional since entering service in 1999 — Prescott also commissioned the development of two additional modules: on community service, and on officer mental health and wellness.

“When I realized what our police officers are doing, I’m like, man — that’s scary,” Prescott said. “They’re not given a chance to do their job at the healthiest position because it all starts with your mental health.”

Tracie Keesee, the Center for Policing Equity co-founder and former NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Equity and Inclusion, has not encountered Prescott or CYCLE’s curriculum but spoke to USA TODAY Sports generally about Prescott’s goals.

“Kudos,” she said of the officer wellness addition. “Because we know for a fact that officers are also carrying trauma. This is not new but it’s also something that needs to be lifted up, needs to be acknowledged, and needs to be invested in. Because they’re bringing that to work with them.”

A 'night and day' difference in training

'This is for real': Inside Cowboys QB Dak Prescott’s mission to build trust, alter police training (2)

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Prescott’s curriculum has attracted buy-in from local departments. Though none has mandated it, Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington police departments each sent officers first to training in late 2021 and then to instructor training in June. Castro says the curriculum’s focus on understanding civilians is “night and day” different from the “warrior mentality” training he received when initially joining the Dallas Police Department in 1999.

Kim Vickers, who retired Aug. 31 as executive director of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE), said the adolescent brain development coursework “mesmerized him.”

“I have never, in my history of law enforcement training, seen that type of training that I thought is extremely beneficial,” said Vickers, whose 43 years in law enforcement included multiple terms as president of the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training.

Lexipol CEO Chuck Corbin believes Prescott’s donation will spur interest from law enforcement wanting to “understand the human element and who’s on the other side of the conversation.”

Could that perspective be sufficient to spur institutional change? Henderson is skeptical that equitable policing will result without legal pushes to change the enforcement and interpretation of laws, holding officersaccountable and enacting stricter consequences for use of force. Keesee said measuring training efficacy is challenging amid divergent community-to-community needs and scant quantifiable targets. She recommended training and outreach efforts target patrol officers who most often interact with civilians, rather than chiefs and training specialists.

And training “cannot replace the need for local law enforcement to be on the ground with their respective communities, having these conversations,” Keesee said. “What it can be used for is a way to begin the conversation, to go in and help frame how you do it.”

In North Texas, that conversation has begun.

'I'd be damned if I stop'

Faith Fight Finish community activities have included an officer-student athlete barbecue dinner; local high school visits by a 35-year-old Black police officer and Breaking Barriers United founder Ryan Tillman; and a “Backpack and Hoodies” event in which students explained to officers why the garments were comfortable and then heard from officers why they generated suspicion. The foundation has also coordinated three town halls between officers and teens of color.

Conversations have broached prior experiences in police-civilian interactions — family members’ distrust, friends’ stigmas, officers’ traumatic calls — as well as shared affinities for rapper J. Cole and the Cowboys.

“The best way to create trust is to give input on both sides and allow them to get their problems out, allow them to say the things they feel most misconstrued about,” Prescott said. “To me, it was, make (law enforcement) better and then the people will understand that, ‘This is for us.’”

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'This is for real': Inside Cowboys QB Dak Prescott’s mission to build trust, alter police training (3)

Prescott dismisses the notion that he’s siding with officers in programming, instead preferring to facilitate dialogue.

“The person in the middle trying to bring everybody together,” said Aliya Larzeia.

“He’s actually trying to get both viewpoints,” added her sister Adia Larzeia, a sophomore at Prairie View A&M. “He’s not like, ‘Oh, you have to listen to the law enforcement.’ As a youth, you still have a voice and opinion. You’re still entitled to hear what we have to say.”

Fort Worth police chief Neil Noakes says Prescott’s pitch on youth involvement was clear: “They have to be at the table or we go nowhere.”

Prescott, Rotenberg and the foundation hope conversations advance as officers receive more access to relational training and community-building events.

Faith Fight Finish hasn’t yet invested $1 million, and Prescott views his 2020 pledge as only an “initial” give.

“When I hit the million, at this point, that’s just checking off what we pledged, but I’d be damned if I stop,” Prescott said. “I’m blessed enough that I’ll have more money at that time than I have right now to be able to put more money into it. I’ll have more connections and more people involved.

“Funding will never be the issue.”

Prescott believes he’s seeing micro-level impacts, be it individual officers learning from students or high-risk students finding mentors among officers.

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“I’ve never left a town hall, never left an event without feeling like we’ve changed somebody’s mindset, perspective and made the officers better,” he said. “Let’s figure out a way for us to answer these questions together.”

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Cowboys QB Dak Prescott is on a mission to rebuild trust with police

FAQs

What did Dak say to Brady? ›

FRISCO - A year, ago, following the Dallas Cowboys' Week 1 loss at Tampa Bay, QB Dak Prescott leaned into Tom Brady - the Tampa Bay winning QB - and issued a pledge. "We'll see you again,'' Dak said. Prescott's intention with his comment during the traditional post-game QB hug was about a rematch in the playoffs.

What is Dak Prescott suffering from? ›

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday that Prescott's operation is to repair a fracture in his thumb.

Who is DAK's backup? ›

Fifth-year QB Cooper Rush is the Dallas Cowboys backup. The team also has fourth-year QB Will Grier on their practice squad.

Who is Dak Prescott's number one target? ›

NFL Network's Jane Slater spotlights Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup who's emerged as quarterback Dak Prescott's top target during wide receiver Amari Cooper's absence.

Has Tom Brady lost to the Cowboys? ›

The Cowboys have never beaten Brady, whether with the New England Patriots (0-5) or Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2). In those games, the future Hall of Famer is 160 of 262 (61 percent) with 15 touchdowns. Brady's seven wins are the most against the Cowboys without a loss. Second on that list: 5-0 Joe Montana.

How many weeks will Dak Prescott be out? ›

NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported Tuesday morning that the Dallas Cowboys quarterback could return in four to six weeks following Monday's surgery, per sources informed of the situation.

Why is Prescott not playing for Dallas? ›

Prescott injured his thumb in the first game of the season against Tampa Bay, with an initial diagnosis that he would be sidelined for six to eight weeks following surgery.

Who will be Dallas Cowboys quarterback? ›

Prescott will be out for a minimum of four weeks and a maximum of eight weeks. By the time Prescott returns, the Cowboys' season may already be over. The Cowboys will opt to go with Cooper Rush as their starting quarterback moving forward.

Did the Cowboys get a new quarterback? ›

'He's not going to panic:' Meet Cooper Rush, Cowboys starting QB in Dak Prescott's absence.

What quarter did Dak Prescott get injured? ›

The team has a Week 9 bye. Prescott suffered the injury in the fourth quarter of the Cowboys' 19-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after his hand twice hit the hand of linebacker Shaq Barrett.

What is Dak Prescott's career completion percentage? ›

Dak Prescott is the Dallas Cowboys career leader in pass completion percentage with 66.4. Players active with the Dallas Cowboys during the 2022 NFL season are listed in bold.

How fast is Dak Prescott? ›

His unofficial results were 4.80 and 4.81 seconds in his two attempts.

What is Dak Prescott's Completion Percentage? ›

Dak Prescott had his highest completion percentage in 2021, at 68.8 percent.
NAMESEASONRATE
Dak Prescott2021104.2

What teams havent beaten Tom Brady? ›

The ONLY team Tom Brady hasn't beaten in the NFL....the New England Patriots.

What team has the most wins against Tom Brady? ›

He owns a . 500 record against the Cardinals, Broncos, and Seahawks. The lucky four teams with a . 500 record against Tom Brady are the Arizona Cardinals, Denver Broncos, and Seattle Seahawks.

Who is Tom Brady's wife? ›

Superstar couple Gisele Bündchen

Gisele Bündchen
Gisele or Gisèle is a given name. The name is from Old German gesel meaning to "pledge" and variant of Giselle, Gisela etc.
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Gisele_(given_name)
and Tom Brady, who wed in 2009, are going through a difficult period.

What team is Dak Prescott on 2022? ›

The initial prognosis on Dak Prescott's return to action from a thumb fracture sustained in the season opener has sent the Cowboys into scramble mode just one week into the 2022 NFL season.

Did Tom Brady retire? ›

Brady originally retired after the 2021 season, but came out of retirement just a few months later when he said he belonged “still on the field.” The 2022 season will be Brady's 23rd in the NFL.

What is the roster for the Dallas Cowboys? ›

Dallas Cowboys

How long is Dak hurt? ›

Update 09/15/22: According to owner Jerry Jones, Prescott had successful thumb surgery. Additionally, the team decided not to put the two-time Pro Bowler on the IR. This means that there is a chance that he could return within the next four weeks.

How long has Dak been with Cowboys? ›

Dak Prescott
No. 4 – Dallas Cowboys
College:Mississippi State (2011–2015)
NFL Draft:2016 / Round: 4 / Pick: 135
Career history
Dallas Cowboys (2016–present)
18 more rows

Where is Dak Prescott today? ›

Where is Cooper Rush from the Dallas Cowboys from? ›

Originally from Charlotte, Michigan, Rush was recruited by Lansing Catholic High School in Lansing, Michigan, with an enrollment of just over 500 students, where he became a three-year starter at quarterback for the football team. He also played basketball and baseball (until his freshman year).

What happened to Dak Prescott's brother? ›

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott's older brother, Jace, died at the age of 31 in April, and Dak has revealed that Jace died of suicide.

What happened to Dak prescotts family? ›

His mother, Peggy Prescott, passed away in 2013 from colon cancer. When it comes to who the 28-year-old Sulphur, Louisiana native and former Mississippi State University Bulldog is dating, you won't find him posting about any of his relationships on Twitter or Instagram.

Who is Daks dad? ›

What does Dak Prescott brother do? ›

Dak Prescott

Is Dak Prescott the Comeback Player of the Year? ›

And on Thursday, NFL Honors cited Burrow as the winner, with Dak as the runner-up. it was a close vote for NFL Comeback Player of the Year

NFL Comeback Player of the Year
The National Football League Comeback Player of the Year Award refers to a number of awards that are given to a National Football League (NFL) player who has shown perseverance in overcoming adversity, in the form of not being in the NFL the previous year, a severe injury, or simply poor performance.
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › National_Football_League_C...
. Burrow won with 28 votes.

How did Marion Barber died? ›

The Collin County (Texas) Medical Examiner's Office has determined former Cowboys running back Marion Barber's death was caused by heat stroke, the Frisco Police Department confirmed to NFL.com on Monday.

What happened to Dak Prescott's mom? ›

Prescott lost his mom, Peggy, to cancer when he was a college sophomore at Mississippi State.

What's Dak Prescott salary? ›

Annual contract extension earnings:

At the time of signing, Prescott became the second-highest paid player in the NFL at an average annual value (AAV) of $40 million per year, sitting only behind Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes.

How much is Natalie Buffett worth? ›

Natalie Buffett's net worth

The model has amassed a lot of wealth and has an estimated net worth of around $1 million. She has earned most of her earnings through her fantastic modelling career and social media sites.

Who is Daks girlfriend? ›

Through all the highs and lows, there's been one person by Prescott's side: his girlfriend Natalie Buffett, whom the quarterback has been dating since at least 2020. The social media influencer has become one of Prescott's biggest supporters, cheering him on at games and helping him through his injury recovery.

What is the name Dak short for? ›

Dak's full name is actually Rayne Dakota Prescott. He began going by Dak, short for his middle name Dakota, back during his school days because his classmates had some trouble with his first name, Rayne (pronounced rain). “Not Patrick Mahomes”.

Why did Dak Prescott fall in the draft? ›

Prescott is convinced his DUI arrest, more than anything, precipitated his fall in the draft. "I felt, based on what I was being told by teams, that I was a second- or third-round pick," he said. "No way the fourth. I felt there was a chance when people got to know me [that] I could jump to late first round.

Has Dak Prescott won a playoff game? ›

In four career playoff games

playoff games
The National Football League (NFL) playoffs are a single-elimination tournament held after the regular season to determine the NFL champion. Currently, seven teams from each of the league's two conferences qualify for the playoffs.
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › NFL_playoffs
, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is 1-3.

How many endorsements does Dak Prescott have? ›

Dak Prescott Net Worth ( Updated 2022)
NameRayne Dakota Prescott
Source of WealthNFL, endorsements,
Salary$42 million
EndorsementsAT&T, Adidas, Beats by Dre, Campbell's Chunky Soup, Direct TV, 7-Eleven, New Era, Sleep Number, Oikos, Pepsi, Citibank.
Endorsement Earnings$50 million
7 more rows

Who is Bryce Gowdy? ›

Bryce “Simba” Gowdy, an elite student-athlete, signed a scholarship offer to play for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in 2019. His Deerfield Beach (Fla.) community rejoiced with his family for another South Florida native closer to fulfilling a dream to play in the National Football League.

What ethnic background is Dak Prescott? ›

Part of the reason he's been able to form such strong bonds with everyone on the team, Prescott says, is because he's biracial. "I grew up in Haughton, Louisiana," Prescott told USA TODAY. "I go to my white grandparents' house, and then I cross the railroad tracks and hang out with my black grandma.

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