Dallas City Council Voices Resistance to Chief's Civilian Oversight Plan

Police chief Renee Hall revealed an updated proposal to the city council Monday

Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall presented her plan for expanded civilian police oversight to a Dallas City Council committee Monday. Everyone involved had complaints about the plan, even though officials hoped to get it approved by next month.

Hall said her proposed changes were the result of more than a year of meetings with activists and members of the current Civilian Review Board.

"I am trying to be, as the leader of this police department, as open and transparent as I can possibly be," Hall said. "Will I be able to give them everything they want? I'm not certain. I think this is a huge step in the right direction in building the trust."

Councilman Philip Kingston took issue with all of Hall's recommendations.

"I don't agree with any of them. These are all bad ideas," Kingston said.

Members of the current 15-member review board are appointed by the mayor and city council members. Board chairman Brian Williams said he supported reform.

"There's still more work to be done as evidenced by today, and it's a slow process. We're talking about things that have been going on for so long. Nothing is solved overnight. But to do nothing and just kick this down the road is not an option," Williams said.

Hall's plan would reduce the number of members to no more than nine. Several council members opposed that change.

The current board has power to call witnesses and conduct investigations, but no staff or budget to pursue cases.

Hall's plan would add a staff of up to five people to investigate complaints only about non-critical issues. It would use a specially trained critical incident review panel to review investigations that police have already conducted on more serious incidents.

The approach to critical incidents is one of the major disputes.

Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata said the option of untrained civilians questioning officers under oath would drive officers away from Dallas.

"You think we're short cops now? You're going to be short a whole lot more. I think we have a responsibility to the public but it needs to be fair," Mata said.

Greater authority over police discipline is exactly what a coalition of community groups have asked for, according to Changa Higgins, one of their leaders.

"Communities of color particularly in the southern part of the city have been for years very clear that they want an oversight board that can investigate critical incidents," he said.

Higgins said the plan Hall presented today was different than what she had agreed to with the coalition in the past.

"I would totally disagree," Hall said. "Every line that was in this presentation today has been discussed."

City council members had several other concerns about details in the plan, but public safety committee member Sandy Greyson summed it up.

"I don't think we're anywhere near ready to move this forward to the full council. I think there's a lot of work left to be done," Greyson said.

Demonstrators for and against civilian review shouted at each other outside the meeting, but participants in the process so far agreed to hold more conversations.

The next opportunity could come at a city hall meeting of the current Dallas Police Civilian Review Board at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

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