There are two stories currently consuming Dallas City Hall. They're related, but they aren't the same. One is the growing frustration among multiple members of the Dallas City Council, Dallas' police associations and some members of the police rank and file with police Chief David Brown. The other is the fallout stemming from a group of council members meeting with Dallas City Manager AC Gonzalez to discuss Brown's future and performance. If you want to read about that, check out Schutze's piece on the politics. As for the issues with Brown himself, those came to a head during and immediately after Monday's meeting of the City Council's public safety committee.
Brown was at City Hall to give one of his periodic briefings on Dallas' crime stats. Usually, the chief's presentations are fairly boring. He tells the story the stats tell him, occasionally fields a question about how changing reporting practices might have something to do with Dallas' decade-long dip in statistically measured crime and goes on about his day. Lately though, the numbers reported by Brown have indicated an uptick in violent crime, especially robberies. Those stats, DPD's slow response times to 911 calls and Brown's always contentious relationship with the Dallas Police Association led to last week's meeting between the council members and Gonzalez.
Brown fired back Monday.
“Officer morale is at an all time low. Officers don’t like the fact that I make them accountable. Officers need higher starting pay and a better pension system. Those who question crime stats have no evidence. Dallas’ decline in crime continues to be the greatest crime story never told,” Brown said.
Brown's efforts to keep officers accountable took a hit as recently as last week.
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Deep Ellum cop Jesus Martinez was fired by Brown after he was videotaped pinning a panhandler named Joe Wesson to the ground. Brown thought Martinez used excessive force. Martinez said he was doing all he could to subdue Wesson after being blinded by his own pepper spray. Dallas' police associations, including the DPA and the Dallas Fraternal Order of Police, strongly backed Martinez, as did the Deep Ellum community. Scott Griggs and Adam Medrano, two of the council members who met with Gonzalez to discuss Brown's employment, wore pro-Martinez T-shirts to a council meeting in December. Last Wednesday, Martinez was reinstated at a civil service review board appeal hearing.
In the past, Brown had largely stayed out of discussions about officer pay. DPA President Ron Pinkston, among others, has insisted that Dallas cops need to get paid as much or better than their suburban colleagues. Monday, Brown said the same thing. Higher salaries, and fixing Dallas' troubled pension system for uniformed city employees, would help stymie DPD's accelerating attrition rate.
Brown went on to blame the increase in violent crime and response times on less available overtime pay, fewer police officers overall and fewer officers on the streets because of training.
After the meeting, Pinkston praised Brown's sticking up for officer pay, but told reporters the DPA's been doing it for five years. Most of what he'd heard from Brown, Pinkston said, amounted to a lot of excuses.
"We need new management style. If that means new chief, then so be it," Pinkston said.