Panelists Selected To Review Fort Worth Police Department

A panel including experts could begin to review the Fort Worth Police Department as soon as December 2, pending approval from the city council.

The outside panel has been tasked with investigating police procedures and forming recommendations aimed to "improve and retain public trust and confidence", according to Fort Worth City Manager David Cooke.

The panel was first announced on Nov. 8, nearly one month after Fort Worth officer Aaron Dean shot and killed 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson inside her home after responding to a call for an open door.

The recommended panelists were presented to city council members Tuesday during a council work session, with an expected vote on Nov. 19.

"They're coming from all over the United States," Cooke said. "We're using two local experts that actually do this in other cities throughout the United States and Puerto Rico."

WHO ARE THE EIGHT PANELISTS?

The panel will be led by Dr. Theron Bowman and Dr. Alex del Carmen, who have both been described as having extensive police reform experience.

Dr. Bowman began his public career service in 1983 as an officer with the Arlington Police Department before being appointed as police chief in 1999.

Dr. for Thermen is considered "an authority on the topic of race and crime with particular emphasis on racial profiling in law enforcement," according to city officials. He wrote the book "Racial Profiling in America".

The other panelists are:

Lynda Garcia: policing campaign director for The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Emily Gunston: Washington Lawyers' Committee and former USDOJ Civil Rights Division deputy chief

Tom Petroski, JD: former FBI Dallas chief legal counsel

Jonathan Smith: Washington Lawyers' Committee and former USDOJ Civil Rights division chief

Marcia Thompson, Esq.: law enforcement and civil rights attorney and consultant

Dr. Rita Watkins: executive director of the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas

HOW WERE THE PANELISTS SELECTED?

Cooke said there was an "overwhelming input from companies that offered to help" with the selection.

"We had other cities that identified who they worked with when they had, whether consent decrees, or just reviews of the police departments," he said.

Both Bowman and del Carmen also weighed in who could serve on the panel, according to Cooke.

"There's a lot of common names that everybody comes up with, so these names we identified have been identified by a number of folks," he said. "It's not me picking these. It's these experts who do it picking each other that say…'here are the people I work with that seem to do it well in other cities'."

HOW WILL THE PANEL WORK?

The review will be split into two phases.

The goal of phase one is to identify patterns and practices related to police interactions with the public during investigative stops, searches, arrests, and the use of force incidents. This includes a detail review of current de-escalation policies, practices, and training with recommendations on potential improvements.

The second phase will review other police policies and more broadly review general orders and practices related to interactions with the public. This would include a review of training associated with traffic stops and other more routine police-community interactions.

Cooke says "listening sessions" with the public will be part of the overall review.

"They're going to want to hear from the community, they're going to want to hear what the community says what the issues are that need to be looked at," Cooke said.

According to Cooke, the review could take anywhere between nine and 12 months – however, the timeline could change based on what is determined from phase one.

Overall, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said she was pleased with the recommended panelists.

"It gives us a chance to get a thorough, in-depth look at our police department and their policies, their procedures and any recommendations that might help with community policing," Mayor Price said.

A city spokesperson says once the council approves the review panel, the process of finalizing contracts will proceed.

It could cost the city up to $375,000. 

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