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Was DPD too lax on officers who mocked a disabled veteran? Dallas’ oversight board to review

A man in a baseball cap sits among rows of blue seats.
Toluwani Osibamowo
Dynell Lane watches an April 9, 2024 meeting of the city of Dallas' Community Police Oversight Board at Dallas City Hall. The board will request a formal review of discipline handed down to Dallas police officers mocked Lane — who is a veteran and disabled — after denying him access to a restroom at a Deep Ellum pizzeria in June 2023, after which he urinated himself.

Dallas' police oversight board voted unanimously Tuesday to independently review the discipline handed down to officers caught on body camera mocking disabled veteran Dynell Lane, who urinated himself after being denied access to a restroom at a Deep Ellum pizzeria last June.

Seven months after Lane initially told the Community Police Oversight Board what happened, the Dallas Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division found all four officers committed misconduct by mocking a citizen and two officers failed to activate their body cameras while off-duty. All the officers were ordered to receive a written reprimand and sensitivity training, according to a city memo.

But the memo didn’t elaborate on what exactly the officers’ sensitivity training covers. That’s something members of the CPOB want clarification on before choosing whether to accept DPD’s discipline.

“Sergeant Lane is still not satisfied, so the board should not be satisfied," said District 2 board member Jonathan Maples. "DPD should not be satisfied. The city of Dallas should not be satisfied, because he's not satisfied.”

Lane told the board in August he was injured during deployments to Afghanistan, Kuwait and Iraq. The Restroom Access Act, or Ally's Law, requires that retailers provide those with eligible medical conditions access to employee restrooms.

Lane said he had tried to show the officers and owners of Serious Pizza documentation that proved his disability, but officers brushed him off.

According to Lane, he then called 911 for help but called them back to cancel his original call because he had urinated on himself. Body camera footage showed four officers laughing inside the restaurant about what had happened.

After a separate presentation Tuesday night, Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia took questions from board members about Lane's case. He said officers haven't been trained on Ally's Law — but if they had, they could have warned the owners of Serious Pizza about the consequences of not abiding by it.

"There could have been better conversation with the business owner, there's no question about it," Garcia said. "However, the enforcement of that would have been better handled by writing a police report and then forwarding it to the proper investigative agency."

Garcia said the department is working on policies to train officers to respond to situations like Lane's.

Lane, who was at Tuesday night’s meeting, declined to comment.

When IAD sent Lane a letter in late March detailing the outcome of the investigation, he later requested a review of the findings from the Office of Community Police Oversight. He told the office he believed the officers should be fired.

Twelve individuals sit in chairs around a horseshoe-shaped table. In front of the table are multiple desks, including one with three chairs behind it.
Toluwani Osibamowo
Members of Dallas' Community Police Oversight Board and Deputy City Manager Kim Tolbert, sixth from left, gather for the board's monthly meeting at Dallas City Hall on April 9, 2024.

Tuesday night’s vote came more than an hour after future interim City Manager Kim Tolbert told the board it would keep its power to independently investigate citizen complaints after pushback from members against a little-known city ordinance.

The ordinance, which was revealed to board members in a confidential legal opinion handed down by the Dallas City Attorney’s Office in February, would have stripped their ability to investigate police complaints on its own if IAD already labeled the complaint “no investigation.”

The news prompted months of confusion over whether the board could continue operating as it always had. Board members said it was especially concerning because it would have prevented them from investigating Lane’s case. An initial investigation initially cleared the four officers.

But Tolbert said in working with the city attorney and police, it was decided IAD investigations will be labeled as a “preliminary investigation and outcome,” taking away any limitations on CPOB’s abilities.

“What we thought was an issue was not an issue," Tolbert said. ”It was more about clarifying some of the language. It didn't change anything as it relates to the process, and I'm glad we were able to get in a room and talk about it."

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Toluwani Osibamowo is a general assignments reporter for KERA. She previously worked as a news intern for Texas Tech Public Media and copy editor for Texas Tech University’s student newspaper, The Daily Toreador, before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She is originally from Plano.