Dallas Police Reform Wins Support from City Council Members

A series of reforms proposed by Dallas Police Chief U.Rene Hall aimed at boosting trust with the community received strong support from Dallas City Council Members Monday.

“I agree with you, there’s been an outpour of support for most of these,” said Councilman Adam Medrano.

“These are things that I intend to push forward and it’s not without the officers input,” Hall said.

Hall presented a briefing on the reforms to the Dallas City Council Public Safety Committee Monday, just hours after she fired former Officer Amber Guyger for the September 6 shooting death of Botham Jean in the man’s apartment.

Guyger has told officers that she thought she was in her apartment and mistook Jean for a burglar.

The man’s death accelerated calls for reform from Dallas Police critics.

The reforms include expanded power for the Dallas Civilian Police Review Board which currently looks only at results of discipline already investigated by police.

Hall came from Detroit where a civilian police oversight board has power to order testimony from witnesses, investigate and impose discipline on officers.

“I grew up in an organization that had an oversight board since the 70’s. It is what built trust and legitimacy in our police department. I am a huge proponent of that for the City of Dallas,” Hall said. “This community, these officers are of the utmost importance to me, and we have to work together collectively in order to build our trust in this community.”

Hall also plans to suspend the department's 72-hour cooling off period that gives officers three days before being compelled to make an official statement about alleged misconduct. She said statements should be taken immediately after an incident and mandatory drug testing should also be required of officers in the wake of critical incidents.

Other parts of Hall’s seven point plan include communication by the Chief with the community within five days of an incident, officer wellness programs and a management awareness program for early warning about problem officers.

“I think that this is definitely the time to move forward. The community has to have a sense of trust,” said Councilman Casey Thomas, a former NAACP leader.

Activist Dominique Alexander with the Next Generation Action Network, led a September 12 protest that interrupted a City Council meeting just days after Jean’s death. That day he said he will keep coming back until civilian oversight is on the City Council Agenda.

Alexander said he was pleased that it was on the Committee agenda Monday, but changes still need to be made that include necessary funding.

“And what we’re asking is to make sure that this board has subpoena power, investigative power, and has the sustaining budget in order for it to do the work,” Alexander said.

Hall also proposed expanding to all Dallas Police officers the bias training that police Sergeants and recent recruits have been receiving.

“We have to change the paradigm of the way we’ve been doing business over the last 30 or 40 years,” Councilman Kevin Felder said. “Something has to change. There are some problems here that need to be addressed.”

Mike Mata, President of the Dallas Police Association, said he has serious concerns about some of the proposals, especially expanded civilian oversight and removing the 72 hour grace period. Mata said he was talking with lawyers about the issues Monday and declined to comment further.

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