DALLAS -- In 2012, Dallas police in riot gear responded after a crowd got out of control.

Residents in Dixon Circle were upset after James Harper, who was unarmed, was shot. Dallas Police said he was fighting with an officer who feared for his life and shot Harper.

Tensions have been growing in Dallas after several officer-involved shootings in recent months.

Daryl Kevin Washington represents several of the families of shooting victims.

'You look at the cases that have been exposed in the last few months, it's something we knew would happen,' he said.

Cases like that of Bobby Bennett, who was mentally challenged and shot while standing still, outraged the community. In the last two years, the city of Dallas has paid out more than $6 million in civil rights violation cases.

Pamela Meanes is the president of the National Bar Association.

'Lawyers that have practiced in Dallas have said, 'Pamela, this problem is pervasive in this area,'' she told News 8.

She said the shooting of unarmed suspects by police is a growing epidemic, particularly among black men.

'What we see in Ferguson is just the tip of the iceberg,' Meanes said. 'It has been happening awhile.'

So the national bar is conducting a study of 25 cities and will present the findings to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and ask for the Justice Department to step in and run some of the departments with the most problems.

'We will demand it. 'You must go in - not watch over - but seize the department, and operate so you can restore faith and trust back into the community,' Meanes said.

Local community and civil rights leaders say it is time for the national spotlight to fall, not just on Ferguson, but other cities where officers continue to shoot unarmed people.

E-mail rlopez@wfaa.com

Read or Share this story: http://www.wfaa.com/story/news/local/dallas-county/2014/08/25/14329064/