Randy McIlwain, NBC 5 News
Dallas Police and the Dallas District attorney are facing criticism tonight. A group of Dallas mothers claim police are using deadly force in too many instances against minorities and they want someone to police the police.
Mother’s Against Police Brutality critiqued Dallas police and the Dallas County District Attorney's office for what they call lax oversight in officer-involved shootings.
The newly formed group came out swinging in its first-ever news conference with a stinging evaulation of the Dallas Police Department and the district attorney's office for its handing of officer-involved shootings.
“It’s not a black problem, it’s not a Hispanic problem, it is not a poor people’s problem, it’s our problem,” said Collette Flanagan, the founder of the Dallas group and who’s unarmed son, Clinton Allen, was fatally shot last March by a Dallas police officer.
Flanagan was joined by other mothers who have lost sons in officer-involved shootings as well as local civil rights activists.
They group supported its critique with studies of the Dallas Police Departments own data indicating that the overwhelming number of citizens shot by Dallas officers were black and Hispanic males.
The numbers showed that the number of officer-involved shootings in Dallas was 11 percent higher than the national rate.
“Over 60 unarmed men have been killed by Dallas policemen since 2001 with only one indictment to date,” said Flanagan.
The case Flanagan referred to was the October shooting of Bobby Bennett, a mentally ill man who was shot by a Dallas officer. The officer has since been fired for policy violations related to his response to the Bennett mental health call.
Initially, Bennett was charged with aggravated assault. An officer on scene gave sworn testimony that Bennett had made an aggressive move that prompted the use of deadly force.
Bennett is still recovering from his injury but the entire incident was videotaped by a neighbor’s surveillance camera and completely contradicted the officer’s account. That officer received a suspension of 15 days and caused Dallas police to change its policy for reporting officer-involved shootings.
Under the new policy, DPD officers have 72 hours and access to investigative evidence in an officer-involved shooting before making an official sworn statement about what happened.
Flanagan says that policy encourages officers to lie.
“Seventy-two hours to view any visible video footage and to have access to internal affairs reports before making official statements is sinister, unconstitutional and unethical,” said Flanagan.
The Dallas Police Department indicated they would respond in a written statement to the criticisms of the policy and allegations that they can’t be trusted to regulate their own officers.
Dallas Police Chief David Brown released a message in response to the recommentations made by Mother's Against Police Brutality:
"I share many of their concerns and agree on a number of the recommendations that were brought forth. I look forward to working with this group, and moving forward towards positive changes for our department."
The office of District Attorney Craig Watkins said that grand jury decisions to not indict officers in cases of force of deadly force are thorough investigations where all available evidence is presented.
Watkins said his office is asking the Dallas County Commissioners Court for $500,000 to fund a civil rights unit.
The unit would have the specific responsibility of investigating cases of officer involved shootings and having investigators on the ground in the moments after a shooting has occurred to gather evidence independently, instead of relying on police reports and investigators.