Dallas' Citizens Police Review Board got meaningfully stronger Wednesday. The new board won't be as strong as activists wanted it to be and is probably a little stronger than Dallas' police associations would've preferred. Its creation is a compromise, just as Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall said it would be throughout the years-long process that led to Wednesday's vote.
Here's what's changing: As a result of the council's 14-0 decision, the city will create a new Office of Community Police Oversight, which will have the power to monitor internal Dallas Police Department investigations, including sitting in on officer interviews from an adjacent room. Additionally, the head of the new office can interview officers involved in administrative investigations after those investigations conclude.
Officers being interviewed by the Office of Community Police Oversight will be given the same warning — that they are not legally required to answer questions, but their not doing so could be considered evidence in the administrative investigation into their actions — that police personnel are currently given during internal affairs division investigations.
Hall, who will retain the final say in all department discipline under the new structure, also will be required to give the board a written report at the conclusion of any officer investigation. The board will not, as many community groups and activists had hoped, have the power to subpoena police officers.
"This is about trust," council member Casey Thomas said earlier this month. "Historically, in communities of color in the city of Dallas, there has been a lack of trust between residents and the police department. This is an effort to establish that. Those who don't feel that we need a police review board, much less an oversight board, please be mindful of the fact that there are individuals who don't feel the same level of comfort in their community."
"This is an extremely significant moment for our city, for our community, for our police department," said Adam McGough, chairman of the council's Public Safety Committee. "In many ways, the way we did this in Dallas is better than it's been done anywhere across the country, and I think we will see a board that ... improves the transparency, increases the trust and helps the community understand that we do have one of, if not the best police forces in the country."
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