DALLAS, TX – In a city where activists fought for a community oversight board, some are now claiming that the board they helped create is not doing the job they were expected to do.
Activists who fought to launch a Dallas Community Police Oversight Board turn on the panel they helped create.. complaining it is too close to police. Board members defend their efforts.. but agree some changes are needed. 6pm! NBC5! @NBCDFW pic.twitter.com/DFARb0F1AK
— Ken Kalthoff (@KenKalthoffNBC5) November 18, 2022
Some of these individuals have even called for the resignation of the chairman they once supported. In response, the chairman, Jesuorobo Enobakhare defended the work he and his colleagues have done so far.
On Tuesday, November 15th, a woman gave a testimony claiming to be a victim of police brutality. Her speech highlighted the challenges that the Dallas Community Police Oversight Board face.
Enobakhare agrees that some improvements are needed in the oversight program, but again, defended the work that the board has done.
The woman, Michelle Spencer, told the board about the injuries she sustained in what she is claiming was a wrongful arrest back in May of 2021. She said that as a result of the arrest she lost her home and two jobs. She said:
“I have since been acquitted of all charges and apologies have been given from the other parties but it still does not erase, take away what we have endured. I spent a year, a whole year. We lost everything.”
The Dallas Police Internal Affairs nor the oversight board took action in response to her claims. However, the Office of Community Police Oversight, which does report to the oversight board, did conduct and independent investigation of the woman’s claims.
Dallas activists clash with police oversight board: ‘You have forgotten why you exist’ https://t.co/YUmPWGuWQk
— Brittany Zucker (@brittanyzucker) November 18, 2022
There was reportedly no body camera footage from the arrest and the officers involved allegedly declined to talk to the oversight investigator. Member John Mark Davidson said:
“We’ve seen too many cases where there’s no body worn camera footage.”
In addition to that statement, other board members have complained about the lack of information available to them on which to make the necessary judgments.
As of this writing, every Dallas patrol officer has a body worn camera, but according to officials, the officers involved with Spencer back in 2021 did not.
Although the officers declined to speak with the board investigator, some other witnesses who did speak said Spencer was in fact the aggressor. Board Member David Kitner said:
“I think we’re very disadvantaged in these things without the power to subpoena officers. It makes us very powerless in these situations to do the job we’re supposed to do.”
Several of the activists who lobbied the Dallas City Council for years to form a stronger oversight board with staff to conduct investigations verbally attacked the board for its work, or lack there of. Activist Tamara Neal said:
“You have forgotten why you exist. We feel that the process is too political and politicized and we’re done.”
Activist Changa Higgins said that the chairman of the oversight board meets frequently with the police chief but claims that he has failed to create a promised advisory committee with outside subject matter experts. Higgins added:
“When you don’t have a technical advisory component, you only can talk to the police department.”
Activist Dominique Alexander took it a step further in his critique of Enobakhare, stating:
“I officially call for the resignation of the board chair effective immediately.”
In response to these calls, Enobakhare said that he would purse the creation of the technical advisory committee, but he will not resign. Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia declined to interview, but a police spokesperson said that he supports community oversight.
The spokesperson said that current rules include no punishment for police officers who decline to participate with the oversight board. Board Member Jose Rivas said:
“If we want change, you have got to get with your council members because this board is willing to do the hard work.”
Dallas Police has no oversight. The meaningless civilian oversight board is led by a self-described “collaborator.” Cops simply refuse to talk and nothing happens. https://t.co/NrnLFGUxhR
— Elm Fork John Brown Gun Club (@EFJBGC) November 17, 2022
Enobakhare was not available for an interview, but Board Member Brandon Friedman spoke in his place and said that many other cities that have community oversight lack the power of independent investigations from an oversight office which Dallas has. He added:
“We have one of the stronger police oversight boards in the country and I’m very proud of that and I think it serves the community of Dallas very well. But, of course there are always things we could do better. I think having subpoena power to compel officers to be involved in these oversight investigations would be a big first step.”
Friedman said that other requested information from the police department has not always been provided, adding:
“If it were easier for us to get information from the police department, that would be really great.”
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