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City Council Approves New Dallas Police Training Program With UNT

Dallas police wear masks and push a car that ran out of gas.
LM Otero
/
Associated Press
Dallas police officers will receive training on how to avoid police mistakes and prevent misconduct by UNT Dallas specialists.

Next month, the Dallas Police Department will launch a new training program that “aims to avoid police mistakes, prevent misconduct” and try to create a cultural shift within the department.

The Active Bystandership in Law Enforcement training, or ABLE, aims to train officers on how to best intervene during conflict. A few DPD officers will be trained initially, and then they’ll become certified to train other officers. Each officer that participates will receive a preliminary eight hours of ABLE training and two hours of annual refresher training every year.

“I really just wanted to, to pull this, to highlight that we are, I think moving in a very good direction,” Mayor Pro Tem Adam Medrano said. I'm looking forward to this training. I think it will have an impact in our police department and with our community.”

This is a three-year initiative in partnership with the Caruth Police Institute (CPI) at the University of North Texas at Dallas. It will start on February 1, 2021 and run through December 31, 2024. It'll cost the city roughly $300,000 that will come from the city’s general fund, which was approved in this year’s budget.

“(This is) where every member, regardless of rank, is empowered to be able to intervene and prevent a culture of peer intervention that avoids creating harm to our community,” Assistant City Manager Jon Fortune said.

Community and police relations have been on edge in the city of Dallas since last year’s summer protests against police brutality that resulted in civilians being hurt with tear gas and rubber bullets. Fortune hopes this is a step toward meaningful change.

Social justice leaders have been asking for more transparency and accountability from the Dallas Police Department.

“There's an overabundance of confidence that all of our officers needed a little more training, correct me if I'm wrong, but this training would give officers exactly eight hours of training, the equivalent of a full work day and seeks to change the entire deeply ingrained culture of brotherhood of the department,” Kristian Hernandez, a community advocate and co-founder of Our City, Our Future said during the city council meeting.

Hernandez was against the program. She doesn’t think the training goes far enough to repair what she called the “deeply ingrained culture of brotherhood” within DPD that keeps officers from reporting misconduct.

“What does success look like for this program that is publicly available, given how much this conduct is handled internally and not in public view? We saw last week just how police departments operate when they're allowed to continue to operate in secrecy,” she said, referring to the deadly riots in the U.S. Capitol.

Hernandez wasn’t the only one that wasn’t entirely sold on the program. Council member Lee Kleinman said he's concerned about DPD officers training each other.

“I very much appreciate us moving to a more academic model, partnering with University of North Texas at Dallas. I'm really hoping that in the long-term we can get to really having educational specialists teaching our recruits and our officers, as opposed to cops teaching cops. Because that's how the culture was put in place in the first place," Kleinman said.

Fortune responded by saying the city will be as transparent as possible and that the Public Safety Committee will get monthly updates on the training.

In an email DPD said: “Participation in this innovative program will complement the actions that have been implemented from the One Dallas: R.E.A.L. Change plan. The Dallas Police Department is committed to creating a culture where officers are encouraged to step in prior to misconduct occurring.”

CPI says part of the training also includes helping members of DPD on how to strengthen community ties with faith-based leaders and community members.

"So the goal of is to reduce unnecessary harm to civilians, reduce unnecessary harm to officers, reduce the risk officer loosing their jobs because of misconduct, to reduce harm against the community," said CIP's Executive Director B.J. Wagner.

Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member and writes about the economic impact of COVID-19 on marginalized communities for KERA News. Email Alejandra at amartinez@kera.org. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @_martinez_ale.

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