Citizen group calls for DA to investigate Dallas officer-involved shootings

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by REBECCA LOPEZ

Bio | Email | Follow: @rlopezwfaa

WFAA

Posted on December 12, 2013 at 7:04 PM

Updated Friday, Dec 13 at 4:53 PM

DALLAS –– A campaign launched by the mother of a 25-year-old who was shot and killed during a fight with a Dallas officer is lobbying the district attorney’s office to send its own investigators to the scene any time an officer discharges a service weapon. 

Collette Flanagan launched Mothers Against Police Brutality amid an outcry among some South Dallas residents following a rash of officer-involved shootings. Clinton Allen, Flanagan’s son, was shot and killed on March 10 by an officer. Police say he was threatening to kick in a woman’s door.

When police arrived, they saw Allen jump over a first-floor railing. The officer ordered Allen to stand still, but police say he “aggressively” jumped a fence and began fighting with the officer. The policeman used his Taser to no avail and then shot Allen dead. He was not armed.

“It’s not a black problem, a Hispanic problem or a poor people’s problem,” Flanagan said Thursday afternoon from the Flag Room in City Hall. “This is our problem.” 

Flanagan was joined by John Fullinwider of the Dallas Peace Center, defense attorney Daryl Kevin Washington and Rev. Ronald Wright of Justice Seekers Texas. The group sent 11 recommendations on changes that could be made within the department to increase transparency in officer-involved violence.

Dallas Police Chief David Brown responded to the group in a release Thursday night that addressed each recommendations individually. Click here to see those recommendations and responses.

"I reviewed a copy of the policy and procedure recommendations made by Mother’s Against Police Brutality. I share many of their concerns and agree on a number of the recommendations that were brought forth," he said. "I look forward to working with this group, and moving forward towards positive changes for our department."

Since her son was killed, Flanagan says she’s watched as officers shot other unarmed suspects. Ofc. Cardan Spencer, a 6-year veteran, was fired by Chief David Brown after he was caught on surveillance camera shooting a mentally ill man for no apparent reason. His case will go to a grand jury. 

The last time a Dallas officer was charged in connection with a shooting was in 1973 when Ofc. Darrell Cain shot and killed 12-year-old Santos Rodriguez. He served two-and-a-half years of a five-year sentence. Cain was summoned by his partner, Ofc. Roy Arnold, who thought he recognized Rodriguez and his brother as two young suspects who burglarized a gas station.

Flanagan says the group does not believe Dallas police can investigate their own officers. On Thursday, they called for District Attorney Craig Watkins to send investigators independent of the police department. 

“We no longer want the Dallas district attorney to wait for the Dallas Police Department to supply them with the reports before they decide to investigate,” she said. 

They’re also asking for a federal inquiry into the number of shootings of unarmed men. They demanded Chief Brown do more to deal with the issue.

“We have been fighting this police brutality in shooting cases for over 15 years of innocent men getting shot down,” Wright said.

In Brown's response to the group's recommendations, he explained the department does not have the authority to grant subpoena power to the Dallas Police Civilian Review Board and that would have to be done by the city council, and doesn't have the authority to assign independent investigators to the board to prepare cases concerning police misconduct.

Brown also disagreed with the suggestion that the Dallas District Attorney's Office should provide investigators at scenes of complaints and officer-involved shootings from the outset.

"We believe that the FBI’s formal review process appropriately addresses this concern," he wrote.

In regards to the group calling for a "preservation of life" policy, Brown quoted from the department's Deadly Force Policy, “Protection of human life is a primary goal of the Police Department; therefore, police officers have a responsibility to use only the degree of force necessary to protect and preserve life.”

Mothers Against Police Brutality also recommended the department "implement training for officers on how to properly interact with minority persons" in their use of force training. Brown replied that DPD "provides all new officers training in multiculturalism and human relations along with the use of reasonable alternatives," and that the Dallas police are field testing body cameras to be worn by all field officers.

"The department believes that we can always improve in this area of training," Brown said in his response. "The department will work with Mothers Against Police Brutality and other groups to improve and enhance our current curriculum to include best practices from departments and agencies around the country."

The only other recommendation the chief greatly disagreed with was the group's suggestion that the department revoke their policy that allows the officer involved in shootings 72 hours to view available video footage, evidence and grants them access to investigative reports done by DPD before making an official report.

"The policy that was implemented is fair and balanced with studies on critical incident stress related to officer’s memory," Brown wrote in his response. "In police involved shootings, officers have the right to refuse to talk to investigators as a part of the criminal investigation. The Department can compel officers to provide a statement to Internal Affairs as a part of the Administrative Investigation; however, by law, the statement cannot be used against an officer in criminal proceedings."

Finally, Chief Brown provided statistics regarding the department's officer-involved shootings from 2003 to 2013 (to date), including the percentage of those fatally shot in each of the last 10 years that were minorities.

In 2012, the department fatally shot 10 people, a high for the 10-year period, and killed or wounded 15, which was also a high for the data set. That followed 2011, in which the department fatally shot two people and killed or wounded six total, both lows in the last decade.

Of the fatal shootings, 70 percent of the deceased have been minorities since 2003. This year thus far, four-of-the-six individuals fatally shot by Dallas police have been minorities, and in 2012, eight-of-the-ten individuals fatally shot by Dallas police were minorities.

In all, the department averaged 5.2 fatal shootings per year, and 10.4 people killed or wounded in police shootings per year. During the same time frame, the department averaged 43.3 officers injured or killed by suspects per year.

This year, the department will have had more officers killed or injured by suspects than in any other year provided.

The group says it hopes to link up with other organizations across the country to bring national attention to the issue of Dallas police misconduct.

Email rlopez@wfaa.com

WFAA.com's Josh Davis contributed to this report


The full list of Mothers Against Police Brutality's recommendations and Chief Brown's responses:

1. Implement and enforce a real preservation of life policy.

Response: “Protection of human life is a primary goal of the Police Department; therefore, police officers have a responsibility to use only the degree of force necessary to protect and preserve life.” This is the philosophy of the Dallas Police Department’s current Deadly Force Policy.

2. Grant meaningful subpoena power to the Dallas Police Civilian Review Board.

Response: The Dallas Police Department does not have the authority to grant subpoena power to the Dallas Police Civilian Review Board. This would require Council action.

3. Assign independent investigators to the Civilian Review Board to prepare cases concerning police misconduct and excessive force.

Response: The Dallas Police Department does not govern the Dallas Police Civilian Review Board and does not have the authority to assign independent investigators.

4. Amend the deadly force policy from shoot to kill to shoot to disable.

Response: The Dallas Police Department’s deadly force policy does not include terminology that reflects “shoot to kill.” The response to question number 1 above, will appropriately addresses this concern.

5. Implement training for officers on how to properly interact with minority person, including, but not limited to use of force in annual and periodic training.

Response: The Dallas Police Department currently provides all new officers training in multiculturalism and human relations along with the use of reasonable alternatives.  The department believes that we can always improve in this area of training. The department will work with Mothers Against Police Brutality and other groups to improve and enhance our current curriculum to include best practices from departments and agencies around the country. In addition, the department is in the process of “field testing” body cameras to be worn by all field officers.

6. Make statistics available on the race of civilian and police officer publicly available, including but not limited to publication digitally of DPD’s encounters involving use of force and officer involved shootings.

Response: See attached chart. 

7. Agree to maintain the records of implementation of above steps for the next 10 years.

Response: Agree

8. Allocate state and federal resources to create a community-based, independent task force to research best practices that have come from critical incidents or institutional failures in public safety from around the nation. This task force will conduct a review of the recommendations stemming from the 1988 Congressional Hearing that occurred in Dallas. This task force should be comprised of members of the Dallas Police Civilian Review Board and community group of stakeholders.

Response: The Dallas Police Department’s Planning Unit is currently conducting a review of the recommendations stemming from the Congressional Hearings. We are also reviewing the policies of Las Vegas, Philadelphia and Seattle along with other major cities.

9. Review and revoke the new shooting investigation policy that allows officer involved in shootings 72 hours to view available video footage, evidence and grants them access to investigative reports done by DPD before making an official report.

Response: All officers have a constitutional right to due process. The policy that was implemented is fair and balanced with studies on critical incident stress related to officer’s memory. In police involved shootings, officers have the right to refuse to talk to investigators as a part of the criminal investigation. The Department can compel officers to provide a statement to Internal Affairs as a part of the Administrative Investigation; however, by law, the statement cannot be used against an officer in criminal proceedings.
 
10. Immediate implementation of policy changes DPD Chief Brown announced in 2012 to address community concerns of excessive force and misconduct to minority citizens, namely:

a. Implement and formalize a process of concurrent investigative review with the FBI Civil Rights Office of all officer involved shootings.
b. Implement a comprehensive Response to Resistance reporting system for a more detailed analysis of incidents involving violence against officers and their response.
c. Develop a formalized foot pursuit policy.
d. Fully re-activate the Digital Video Recorder (DVR) Review Team to build public confidence that the Department proactively examines office performance to ensure compliance with departmental and public expectations.
e. Implement a mandatory electronic control weapon (Taser) training policy for all officers.
f. Enhance the Department’s consensual search policy to include the requirement of written and/or recorded consent.

Response: All of the policy changes have been implemented.

11. Dallas District Attorney’s provide investigators on the crime scene to immediately investigate complaints and office involved shootings from the onset, rather than waiting for DPD Internal Affairs to supply them with evidence.

Response: We believe that the FBI’s formal review process appropriately addresses this concern.

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