Community Organization Says Dallas Police Miss Target When Tallying Shootings

The scene of an officer-involved shooting.
The scene of an officer-involved shooting.
Sky Chadde

Dallas Communities Organizing for Change, which has been largely critical of the Dallas Police Department, hopes to set a higher bar for the department in how it identifies incidents when officers fire their weapons. "They don't categorize officer-involved shooting appropriately," says Stephen Benavides, the organization's spokesman.

The department, police spokesman Major Jeff Cotner says, essentially divides officer-involved shootings into two categories: hits and misses. Now, a hit is also divided into whether the person shot was injured or killed. In order to avoid confusion, Cotner says, most reports released to the media that tally up officer-involved shootings only include the hits.

For instance, a December 2013 department press release adds up the total number of hits -- injuries and kills -- between 2003 and 2012, and arrives at a total of 102.

Benavides' group doesn't think that number accurately represents what's happening in Dallas. Essentially, the organization wants more emphasis on an officer's decision to pull the trigger, not his marksmanship. Hits and misses should be counted the same.

See also: Group of Black Lawyers and Judges Seeks Dallas Police Data to Root Out Brutality

If that were the case, the number of officer-involved shootings reported in the department's press release would have been 167, not 102, according to data the organization complied into a new report on police abuse. Having all officer-involved shootings -- hits and misses -- have equal weight is the "highest bar" for the department, Benavides says.

Wrongly classifying officer-involved shootings is only one small part of the problem, though, Benavides says. The real issue, he says, is that the department has a 10-year history of violence directed toward the minority community.

According to the 2010 Census, blacks make up 25 percent of Dallas' population, and victims of police shootings are disproportionately black, according to data acquired through open records requests in the organization's report:

"The rate at which black men and women are killed by the Dallas Police far outweighs their respective representation in the population," reads one part of the report. "In 8 out of 10 years, black individuals suffered at twice the rate of the U.S. Census population. 2007 represents the high at an appalling 83.33 percent, while 2003 is the lowest at 28.57 percent."

The organization wants the Department of Justice to investigate the police for violating the black community's constitutional rights. For a city to be held accountable for violating a constitutional right, plaintiffs need to prove a city's policies led to discrimination.

"DCOC alleges that the clear pattern and practice of excessive force against blacks and Hispanics, acted and continues to act as a de-facto municipal policy," reads the report.

Also, the organization believes it has the numbers that show discrimination and justifies a DOJ investigation.

"No way you can argue this is not happening," Benavides says. "These are the numbers they [the department] gave us."

Send your story tips to the author, Sky Chadde.

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