Late last week Dallas Police Chief David Brown announced new department strategies as well as plans to develop a foot pursuit policy in wake of the officer-involved shooting of drug suspect James Harper.
On Monday, in his most candid comments to date, Brown opened up about his feelings regarding the July 24 shooting and the unrest that followed caused by misinformation circulating through the Dixon Circle community where Harper was shot after fleeing from and fighting with Officer Brian Rowden.
"There was a rumor spreading through that crowd that Mr. Harper was shot in the back of the head running away, which would not have been appropriate," said Brown. The Dallas County Medical Examiner verified the police account, Harper's autopsy report revealed he was shot in the chest, stomach and arm.
The result was a tense standoff between Dallas officers in riot gear and residents of the area along with agitators and spectators from outside the Dixon Circle community.
In other cities, Brown says those conditions would have produced a violent outcome.
"You look at Dallas, one evening of highly tense emotional crowd, but the officers went into the crowd because they knew people in the crowd and embraced them and were able to calm them down," said Brown. "And we didn't take any enforcement actions."
Not a single person in the crowd was arrested that night; Brown calls it a shining example of great police work but adds there's much to do.
Chief Brown is a native of Dallas, growing up in Oak Cliff. He's been a Dallas officer now for 29 years and says he understands that there is a disconnect between some of the city's toughest neighborhoods and the police department.
The Harper shooting forced Brown to look at 10 years’ worth of officer-involved shootings in Dallas to compare the numbers and see if the criticism coming from some local pastors and other groups was warranted.
The numbers show officer-involved shootings have remained consistent in the past decade reaching a high of 22 in 2002 and a low of 10 in 2005.
As for the shooting of Harper, Chief Brown offers no critique of officer Brian Rowden who he says was fighting for his life.
"He chased Mr. Harper, fought him three times to the point of exhaustion, and we have to win," said Brown. "f we lose the fight we lose our gun, if we lose our gun, we lose our life and I want our Dallas officers to go home at night to their families, and so if you fight the police we've got to win that fight."
Brown called Harper a drug dealer who was on his way back to prison and said what happened should serve as a warning to others who decide to fight officers.
"We're fighting for our lives and I'm encouraging criminals to give up, first of all don't run, if you run don't fight, if you fight just know we have to win," said Brown.