Anyone who follows Dallas Police Chief David Brown on Twitter or Facebook knows that during the department's semi-regular disciplinary hearings he posts details about the punishment handed down to misbehaving officers. A Dallas Police Association attorney briefly raised a stink about it last March, but the practice has generally been accepted as just another example, along with the Fruit Ninja saga and Brown's "cocksucker" tweet, of the department's embrace of social media.
For whatever reason, Brown's tweets have suddenly become a topic of controversy. First came a piece from Vocativ, which was followed by a post on the tech-news site CNET, which was followed by a flood of stories from Gawker, NPR, and, of course, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.. (The local media, having either grown accustomed to to Brown's incessant tweeting or simply seeing it as a helpful but relatively minor nod to transparency, have been mostly quiet on the subject.)
All the attention today prompted Brown -- using Twitter and Facebook, of course -- to offer an explanation and a defense.
"With regard to disciplinary matters, every employee receives due process according to established policy and procedures governing internal investigations," he wrote. "The Dallas Police Department has always provided public information to the media and citizens according to Texas laws governing such information, including names and badge or employee numbers of those employees who have been given discipline along with the reasons for that discipline. The evolution of social media has only changed the expediency with which the department is able to provide that information to the public."
In other words, it's not an attempt to publicly shame the officers, it's not a violation of their privacy, and Brown will keep tweeting about the officers he fires.
And he should. Cops, like other public servants, cede a certain amount of privacy when they sign on to work for a government. When they screw up, the public deserves to know.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.
Here's Brown's full statement:
The Dallas Police Department is committed both to transparency in its operations and to transparency in the reasoning behind those operations. Since 2009, the Department has looked for ways to best employ social media to leverage community involvement in crime reduction, present the Department's message and brand and to increase the transparency of our operations and commitment to the citizens we serve.
With regard to disciplinary matters, every employee receives due process according to established policy and procedures governing internal investigations. The Dallas Police Department has always provided public information to the media and citizens according to Texas laws governing such information, including names and badge or employee numbers of those employees who have been given discipline along with the reasons for that discipline. The evolution of social media has only changed the expediency with which the department is able to provide that information to the public. The Department provides no more information via social media now than it ever did in the days of type written press releases.
As a matter of policy and with the upholding of the public trust in mind, the Dallas Police Department will communicate the outcomes of disciplinary hearings that result in terminations and other noteworthy disciplinary actions via its social media accounts. More detailed explanations will follow along with information related to employee appeal rights. Accordingly, information regarding any employee who, upon appeal, has noteworthy discipline altered (overturned, increased or decreased) will likewise be announced via social media.
The public has an expectation that we are conducting our daily business in a forthright and trustworthy manner and our employees have an expectation that they will be treated fairly and afforded due process in accordance with prescribed procedures. Therefore the Dallas Police Department is committed to providing all public information in the most expedient manner to maintain the public trust and confidence of those we serve.
David O. Brown Chief of Police
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