I'm a Retired Officer Who Investigated Police Misconduct. Dallas Does Not Need to Expand Citizen Review Board

Several months ago I retired from the Dallas Police Department after nearly 24 years of service. My dream assignment was that of a detective in the Internal Affairs Division, an investigative branch tasked with investigating police misconduct. There are no perfect police departments or police officers. I hated police misconduct and was proud to do my part to uphold the integrity of the department, at times putting me at odds with officers I knew personally and professionally. Small price to pay for safeguarding the public's trust.Dallas city officials are considering expanding the Citizen Review Board's power by granting them the authority to subpoena police officers and the autonomy to conduct investigations. It is ill-advised for them to do so and a dangerous trend they must not agree to. The board hears complaints from citizens disagreeing with internal police investigations. There are several oversight models, but the current board is based on a review model, and it can only make recommendations as to whether complaints were properly investigated by police detectives.Civilian oversight boards came to prominence in the 1980s in response to questionable police shootings across the country and serve as a check-and-balance to police internal investigations. But for all of their good intentions, oversight boards are not effective. Little credible evidence exists to support claims that they build community trust or reduce police brutality, or that their existence results in fewer police shootings.My past work as a detective granted me exposure directly and indirectly to review boards. Members lacked technical knowledge and law enforcement expertise, and the quality of their questions was poor. Hearings were not fact-finding missions, but exercises in gotcha moments. I often left hearings convinced several members only served on the board to expand their personal platforms.It is not lost on me that racial disparities exist in how police officers use force. I have interviewed ethically challenged police officers. When warranted, some were fired and several criminally indicted. Oversight is already in place and should not be jettisoned to laypeople armed with a rudimentary knowledge of police procedures.In addition to internal affairs and the department's public integrity unit, the district attorney's office has a public integrity unit that investigates police shootings independent of Dallas' internal investigations. An unprecedented five Dallas police officers were indicted last year for causing the death of citizens. Deference to police officers in Dallas County is a thing of the past and rightfully so.The murder of Botham Jean by off-duty Dallas police officer Amber Guyger reduced me to tears. Guyger alone is responsible for his death, not the policies or procedures of the department. She was fired. His death should not be politicized by those eager to use it as confirmation bias that Dallas police officers kill with impunity and justice can only be served by expanding the board's power. Complete autonomy for review boards should only be granted when there is a high level of mistrust and departments have demonstrated their inability or unwillingness to conduct fair and impartial investigations.Chief Renee Hall was hired to lead the department and has received praise and criticism for her handling of the Jean case. Expanding the board's reach usurps her authority to discipline officers and will impede investigations, rendering her a paper tiger. Accountability begins and ends with her. She sets the tone.Police departments no longer operate in a vacuum, and officers must be held accountable. But review boards with expanded power are vulnerable to political manipulations. Parading officers before them is a dangerous trend and one city officials must not endorse.Marilyn Gates is a retired Dallas police officer. She wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.What's your view?Got an opinion about this issue? Send a letter to the editor, and you just might get published.  Continue reading...

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