The Dallas police chief Wednesday released an updated policy on the use of tear gas and rubber bullets on peaceful protesters.
It came as a preliminary report on police handling of protests in May and June became public for the first time. After complaints by Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson and other city leaders last month about the slow police release of information. The report was evidently provided to the mayor and city council members in mid-June but was not released to the public.
The after-action report obtained by NBC 5 said police resorted to tear gas and rubber bullets after a demonstration turned violent the night of Friday, May 29.
“A large aggressive crowd of what looked to be several hundred took over Commerce Street and moved physical construction barriers setting up a wall between themselves and officers. These crowds injured officers, damaged property, burglarized businesses and committed thefts in the downtown area. Businesses that were impacted include multiple 7/11's, Neiman Marcus, and other downtown business locations in Deep Ellum,” the report said.
The report said 13 Dallas police officers were injured that night by bricks, rocks, fireworks, and frozen water bottles. It said armored personnel carriers were used to protect officers.
Similar police tactics were used during another night of demonstrations on Saturday, according to the report.
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Police Chief U. Renee Hall spoke to NBC 5 on Sunday, May 31 about the demonstrations.
“We are not tolerant of individuals who have come into the city and have a separate agenda other than a peaceful protest. We have not tolerated it and we’re not going to anymore," Hall said. "So, peaceful protest we respect and we will continue to support, but anything outside of that there is no room for."
Some demonstrators were seriously wounded by what police consider “non-lethal” tactics but the policy adjustment made Wednesday further restricts those tactics.
Protest organizer Dominique Alexander with the Next Generation Action Network took issue with the report.
“People need to be held responsible. And we're tired of Dallas police, with this little secret investigation process, where they investigate themselves. There's no transparency,” he said.
Alexander complained most about police handling of the June 1 demonstration when protestors were corralled on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge.
“These are not the people who are looting and things of that nature. These are peaceful protesters,” Alexander said.
The report said police told demonstrators to stay off the bridge but demonstrators marched onward anyway. It confirmed that tear gas and pepper balls were used to control the crowd. Previous police statements denied the use of tear gas on the bridge.
“Some in the crowd began to throw water bottles filled with baking soda in front of officers lined information. Patrol officers used pepper ball launchers on the ground to stop the crowd from moving forward and for officer's safety as some in the crowd were throwing objects at officers,” the report said.
Dallas City Council Member Adam Bazaldua said he was at the June 1 demonstration, first as an observer with Hall and then as an observer with demonstrators on the bridge.
“I also was physically present with the command staff and never once heard that there were any projectiles being thrown at law enforcement, not once,” Bazaldua said. “When I saw the way the bridge was being responded to, I had a big problem with it and wanted to see closer for my own firsthand experience.”
Bazaldua complained that the report is being used to paint demonstrators with a broad brush as trouble makers. He said it should have been released publicly much sooner by the police department that claims it supports reform, transparency and weeding out bad apples.
“I think that it’s a pretty ironic parallel to hear the argument that bad apples shouldn’t ruin it for the whole bunch when that’s essentially how this was handled,” Bazaldua said.
Dallas Police Association president Mike Mata said demonstrators should police their ranks.
“The protest organizers need to do the exact same thing. They need to find those individuals who are committing these violent acts within their own peaceful protest,” Mata said. “It’s not one or two bad people. I know the Dallas Police Department has video that shows multiple, multiple individuals within these protests who are committing violent acts.”
Mata said he has no problem with the extra language Hall added to general orders Wednesday to specify when non-lethal measures can be used. He said Dallas police have watched peaceful protests for years and did not resort to those tactics in the past.
“I don’t believe the Dallas Police Department would use tear gas or any kind of kinetic energy tactic unless it was necessary,” he said.
Dallas City Council Member Tennell Atkins said he wants to see the final report with conclusions from police before comments on what happened. Council member Casey Thomas said he had not read the report.
Messages for Mayor Eric Johnson were not returned Wednesday.
A police spokesperson said Hall and other commanders were unavailable for comment Wednesday but issued the following statement.
“The Preliminary After-Action Report shared with members of the Dallas City Council on June 17th is a point in time draft. This initial preliminary draft report was requested by several City Council members. It is not a final, complete or comprehensive report. We do not release draft reports to the public. The City Manager and the Dallas Police Department wanted to provide opportunity for the report to be comprehensive and allow time to fully review and investigate additional information provided by the public. Members of the public with any additional photos, videos, or information are asked to forward the information to the Dallas Police Department via the iWatch Dallas app or email email@example.com by July 31. The Dallas Police Department continues its review and investigation and expects to finalize its report and share it with City Council and the public after the council returns from July recess.”