Reaction to Disruption at First Dallas Police Oversight Meeting

New Oversight Board Chairman promises public input at all future meetings

The new Chairman of the Dallas Civilian Police Oversight Board Wednesday said all future meetings will include public input.

His promise came after a disruption at Tuesday night's first meeting of the new board when activists demanded a chance to speak.

The activists tussled with police and each other but no one was injured and there were no arrests.

"We're here to make it work," said Board Chairman Jesuorobo Enobakhare. "We're here for the community. We're here to be the voice for the community."

The new Oversight Board is the result of two years of negotiations between residents, police and city leaders. Unanimous approval of the new program in April was a sign of unity.

Tuesday's meeting was to be just an organizing session to set up rules for the next meeting. The disruption ended after activists were given a chance to speak.

"We can't work together if we keep fighting one another," Chief U. Renee Hall said. "If this Police Chief was not about change, the she would not have been side by side with this coalition for two years insuring that this board was in existence."

Activist Changa Higgins questioned the presence of appointee Tamara Brown Rodriguez on the oversight board. He said she has been critical in the past of giving civilians greater oversight authority over police.

"You need to step down because we're going to be here in your face every week, because I didn't spend two years of my life just for you to mess it up. Get out of the way," Higgins said.

City Council Member Paula Blackmon who appointed Rodriguez said in a text message that her appointee understands the board's mission.

"She supports its mission of a board where grievances can be hard, addressed and solved," Blackmon said.

Enobakhare said selecting members of the board is not his business as Chairman.

"That's something that's up to the City Council. But again, it's a new day. It's a new board and I think we have a fresh start. It's a great opportunity for the City of Dallas," he said.

Enobakhare said he was only made Chairman hours before the first meeting. Staff to investigate complaints has not been hired yet. And several members of the board have not been nominated by City Council Members yet.

"These are things we're still working on now. You have to keep in mind, the ordinance just went into effect October 1," Enobakhare said.

Reverend Ronald Wright, a long-time Dallas community activist and veteran of past issues with police, said the new board needs to be given a chance before coming under fire.

"I want to let them set it up first and organize it before I can hold them accountable. I can't hold you accountable if I don't allow you to get your stuff together," he said.

Wright said City Council Members should be questioned for failing to appoint all the members for the new oversight board that was approved months ago.

"Why wasn't I asked to be on the panel," Wright said.

He lives in the District of City Councilman Tennell Atkins, who has yet to make an oversight board appointment, according to city records.

Latino Activist Hilda Duarte said she has asked Atkins to nominate her on behalf of the Hispanic Community.

"I think we could do some positive change," Duarte said. "It's very difficult for us to trust the Police Department. They haven't shown good faith so far."

Duarte questioned the conduct of activists who attended Tuesday's meeting and also Chief Renee Hall's behavior.

"I don't think the Police Chief should stand up and argue back. That's not the professionalism," Duarte said.

Hall apologized at Tuesday's meeting for losing her composure.

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