911 Callers Waited While DPD Officers Studied

Police association stands by disciplined officers

Three on-duty police officers studied for a promotion test for three hours at the Dallas Police Association office one evening in March while nearby crime victims waited as long as 63 minutes for help to arrive, an NBC 5 investigation has found.

The officers were disciplined for failing to devote their attention to the department and received a supervisory reprimand, police spokesman St. Cpl. Demarquis Black said.

After receiving and anonymous tip, NBC 5 Investigates pieced together details of the evening of March 17 from public records including crime reports, the officers’ activity logs and GPS data from their patrol cars.

Shemel Hennington called 911 from her apartment on Gaston Avenue when an argument with an acquaintance turned violent.

"I was extremely desperate,” she said in an interview this week. “I'd say on a scale of one to 10, I was already at an eight."

The person was banging on her door repeatedly and broke her front window.

Hennington, 32, a parking lot attendant, said she waited for police to arrive. And waited.

"I really, at that point, didn't know what to do,” she recalled.

Police records show Hennington called police at 6:06 p.m.

Dispatchers categorized it as a "major disturbance" and “Priority 2 – Urgent.” Officers didn't arrive until 6:55 p.m., 49 minutes later.

Other urgent calls around the same time took even longer.

At 5:57 p.m., someone called to report a woman was beating someone with a stick on Cochran Street. Officers arrived at 7 p.m., 64 minutes later.

At 8:02 p.m., on Live Oak, a man worried that his mother was in danger. He called back three times before officers arrived at 8:54 p.m. -- 52 minutes later.

But while some officers were racing from call to call, three were available -- and within just a few miles -- but did not respond.

GPS information from their patrol cars shows they were at the Dallas Police Association on Griffin Street for three hours.

Association leaders confirm even though the officers – Ashton Hunter, Robert Wheelock and Senior Cpl. Gustavo Rodriguez -- were on duty, they were studying for a promotion test.

Hunter's activity report shows he responded to one call the entire day and was assigned to patrol the Farmers Market.

The department did not provide any activity reports documenting what the other two officers were doing.

Hennington appeared surprised when told about the officers studying for a promotion test.

"Oh wow. I mean, where was the supervisor? Someone over them to tell them they needed to get back on the street?" she asked. "I thought you did that kind of stuff on your own time, not when you're working or when you're needed.”

Black would not answer questions about whether officers are allowed to study for promotion tests while on duty.

Asked about average response times, he suggested filing a formal open records request.

In a statement, Dallas Police Association President Ron Pinkston called the three hours the officers were there “a brief study session.”

“Any effort to provide a better-trained officer makes for a safer, more secure Dallas,” he said.

His statement didn’t address the delays or the discipline but he did say the three officers were a tiny percentage of the total number of officers on duty that day.

The officers passed their tests and were later promoted, he added.

City council member Adam Medrano, who represents that area and also is a member of the Public Safety Committee, did not respond to several emails seeking comment.

NBC 5's Don Peritz Jr. contributed to this report.

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