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Dallas Police Chief Halts Field Sobriety Training Because Minority Recruits Keep Failing

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Dallas Police Chief David Brown is once again denying accusations that DPD has watered down recruit training standards.

The allegations were leveled recently by Dallas Police Association President Ron Pinkston, who said a recruit was allowed to retake and ultimately pass the police academy driving test despite multiple failures. A week ago, Brown provided few specifics but said that all policies had been followed. He vowed to launch an internal affairs investigation to find the source of Pinkston's information.

On Thursday, Brown offered a few more specifics. The recruit in question did fail his driving test on multiple occasions, DPD said in a press release, and there was a discussion in the chain of command of whether to fire him, but a decision was ultimately made by Assistant Chief Patricia Paulhill to offer remedial training and a retest.

This, Brown says, is in accordance with police academy policy. Each recruit gets two shots to pass the driving test before receiving remedial training and two shots after. This particular recruit hadn't received remedial training until Paulhill made her decision.

See also: Dallas PD Chief David Brown Vows to ID Cop Who Said DPD Has Eased Training Standards

That was one thing Brown took away from his review of DPD training standards. The other is that there is that two police academy courses -- driving and field sobriety training -- have been weeding out minority recruits at a disproportionate rate.

Over the past five years, five would-be cops have been fired after flunking their driving test. All five were black or Hispanic. (The recruit referenced by Pinkston is black.)

During the same period, nine would-be cops have flunked the field-sobriety training. Eight were black or Hispanic.

Cletus Judge, president of the Black Police Association of Greater Dallas, says those numbers are suspicious.

"I think it has to do with the way the test is given," he says.

Both the driving and field-sobriety tests include evaluations by a supervisor, which leaves considerable room for subjectivity. Anecdotally, Judge hears of cases of disparate treatment -- maybe one recruit who brush up against a cone on the driving course is docked more than another who knocks the cone over -- but he wants to see the data: who's passing, who's failing, and, most importantly, who's doing the evaluations.

"If there's a direct correlation between the person giving the test and the [African American recruits] failing, that person needs to go," Judge says.

On Tuesday, Brown responded to those concerns by ordering police-academy staff to suspend the field-sobriety training while the department ensures it is consistent with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration guidelines.

"We will continue to review all of our training to ensure our high standards are not compromised in any way and that we make necessary adjustments to continually improve," Brown said in a statement.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

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