Police Reform Group Encouraged By Meeting With Dallas Police Chief | KERA News

Police Reform Group Encouraged By Meeting With Dallas Police Chief

Jul 10, 2020

Police reform has been top-of-mind for lots of folks since George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis. Nationwide, cities and states have taken steps to limit police brutality. But in Dallas though, things are slow moving.

Still, multiple coalitions are calling on city leaders to make changes to policing. The In Defense of Black Lives Coalition is calling for the Dallas Police Department's $514 million budget to be slashed.

The Dallas Community Police Oversight Coalition is demanding more transparency and accountability for bad actions taken by police. Recently that group secured a small victory when Dallas Police Chief Reneé Hall announced that the department will now release videos when police shoot people or are accused of using excessive force within 72 hours of someone being hurt or dying.

Another group requesting changes in police policies is the Texas Organizing Project. They say they want Dallas police to stop arresting protesters. They want DPD to stop using nonlethal bullets and tear gas, too. In addition, they want Dallas police to cease working with state troopers because they operate outside departmental policies and standards.

TOP's campaign coordinator met with the city’s top cop earlier this week. David Villalobos said the meeting with Chief Hall went surprisingly well.

"Going into the meeting, we've seen Chief Hall say things like 'We're not going to make some people happy,' and we saw some of the rhetoric she was using in the media and it wasn't community-friendly. It was like, 'I'm going to be tough on protesters. I'm going to be tough on crime,'" said Villalobos. "But no. She was very courteous, very nice, very open."

He admits, though, that Chief Hall didn't offer any commitments. He said she told the group that she is willing to have a follow-up meeting. Villalobos said that's when he hopes to get answers to TOP's demands.

"I want to say that the answers we're still seeking are connected to our demands for DPD to stop arresting protesters, for them to stop using nonlethal weapons, for them to stop the practice of kettling, and the use of state troopers in the city of Dallas," he said.

Villalobos said the group did come away feeling victorious about some of the demands the police chief said she did support, such as allowing those being ticketed for minor crimes to be released after being given a citation.

"We were encouraged to learn that Chief Hall supports the implementation of eight cite-and-release eligible offenses and that she is open to identifying opportunities to find money within the current police budget, and outsourcing some police responsibility," said Villalobos.

The police department said that CHief Hall does support cite-and-release policies but that expanding the policy in place requires collaboration between members of the Dallas City Council and community stakeholders. Currently the city of Dallas cite-and-release ordinance only identifies marijuana as an eligible offense. 

The Texas Organizing Project plans to meet again with Hall to see if they can get the cite-and-release practices officially mandated. The group is also working on a "People's Budget." And they hope to share that with city leaders in August.