NPR for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
On Our Minds is the name of KERA's mental health news initiative. The station began focusing on the issue in 2013, after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Coverage is funded in part by the Donna Wilhelm Family Fund and Cigna.

Community Group Files Civil Rights Complaint Against Dallas Police

Neff Conner,
A civil rights complaint against the city of Dallas and the Police Department asks that all federal funding for police be withheld until policies and procedures surrounding officer involved shootings of minorities are addressed.

A federal civil rights complaint was filed Thursday against the city of Dallas and the Dallas Police Department.  The group Dallas Communities Organizing for Change wants the Justice Department to investigate use of excessive force by Dallas police officers.

Dallas Communities Organizing for Change announced the filing in front of City Hall.

“This is a contentious issue. We understand that," attorney Shayan Elahi said shortly after filing the civil rights complaint. 

It requests an investigation of alleged violations of the Civil Rights Act on behalf of African-Americans and Hispanics. Those are populations the complaint says have been historically subjected to police excessive force.  

Recent shootings involving officers caused a disturbance in the South Dallas Dixon Circle neighborhood, protest marches downtown and a couple of angry town hall meetings. Kooper Caraway with Dallas Communities Organizing for Change says they’ve repeatedly sent their concerns to city leaders.

“We’ve filed detailed reports, detailing Dallas police use-of-force. We’ve sent them to every City Council member," Caraway said. "We’ve attempted to meet with City Council members to discuss these reports, to discuss these ethics complaints. And all except Adam Medrano, we’ve only been met with doors in the face.”

So, Caraway says they’re taking it to the Justice Department. According to the complaint, over the last decade, 58 people were killed by Dallas police officers. Most were African-American or Hispanic. Of those killed, 36 were confirmed as unarmed. 

Caraway says it’s up to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Dallas to decide if the complaint merits action. The office didn't respond to a request for comment.   

Earlier this month, on KERA’s "Think," Dallas Police Chief David Brown said he understands the anger and lack of trust among minority communities when there’s an officer-involved shooting.

“Particularly black communities who have a horrible experience going back decades with police community relationships," Brown said. "And many times the perspective is shaped by the history of the relationship not necessarily the incident that just happened.”

Brown says engaging minority communities in a positive way is a top priority and so is protecting an officer’s life in split-second, dangerous situations.

The complaint lists 10 demands, including a change that police shoot to disable not shoot to kill, better crisis training and body cameras for all officers.   

Brown says officers are getting body camears, and next month the department will unveil a website to provide the facts of every officer involved shooting since 2003. 

Shortly after the complaint was filed, the police department released a statement listing more than half a dozen changes already made relating to officer-involved shootings.  They include continued "use of force" training for all officers and creation of a new report to document use of force to overcome a suspect.

Former KERA reporter BJ Austin spent more than 25 years in broadcast journalism, anchoring and reporting in Atlanta, New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Along the way, she covered Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and the corruption trials of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.