DPD Deputy Chief Golbeck On the Right and Wrong Time to Shoot Pepper Balls Into a Crowd

I finally spoke with Dallas Police Department Deputy Chief Vince Golbeck, head of the Central Patrol Division, concerning Officer Perry Strickland's decision to fire off 13 rounds of pepper balls on Lowest Greenville Avenue early Sunday morning, just as clubs were closing. Golbeck has already acknowledged that Strickland, a six-year veteran of the department and a longtime Greenville Avenue fixture, is being investigated for the incident. Says Golbeck, Strickland "could not justify" his actions and "realizes he made a mistake." The officer could face disciplinary action.

"He knows, like you, what's a good crowd and what's a bad crowd about to turn, and that was not one of them, as your observations show," Golbeck tells Unfair Park. "We gotta make sure that we utilize [pepper balls] in very controlled circumstances, and that's not one. That wasn't a crowd control situation that was getting out of hand that could not have been handled by just bringing in three or four more officers and just forming a line saying, 'Come on, guys, party's over. Party's over. Let's go.'"

Our Q&A follows.

First question: Should there have been a report? [DPD spokesperson Janice Crowther says she's been unable to find one.]

Absolutely. Yeah. The officer made a mistake, and there's going to be discipline accordingly. He was a little heavy-handed. There was no reason to fire off 13 rounds of pepper ball.

At the time of the incident, it was relatively quiet, I've been down there on weekends where it's been much busier and more hectic, where the crowd was a little more unruly. But it was 2:09 in the morning, and people were still paying their bar tabs inside.

Yeah, you're absolutely right. There's no argument there. Why the officer made the decision, he could not justify it. He realizes he made a mistake. First of all, the pepper ball launcher shouldn't have even been out in the street like that. To my knowledge it has been out there for several weeks ... That was new, but that was a decision that was not approved. We had, maybe, I guess some miscommunication on that aspect of it.

With the officer?

No. The lieutenant over at that geographical area had made the decision to have the pepper ball out and available, but he as well did not say to have it strapped on and visible. Did they communicated sufficiently to the officers? Probably not. This was not an on-duty ... this was an officer that was kind of working in a compensatory, as kind of an additional officer that we bring in on Friday and Saturday nights to enhance public safety there on Lowest Greenville. But he's familiar with the crowds, and I personally asked him, 'Did you see anything differently?' I mean, why, we haven't used this out there in over three years. "Why now?" And there was no adequate response. And we'll handle that accordingly. He knows a mistake was made and it won't happen again.

Back to the policy on how these are used and reported and when. Should the officer have filled out an MIR?

Yeah, a miscellaneous incident report and then also too you have to complete a pepper ball usage form. Anytime you use OC spray, pepper ball or a Taser you have to complete a report. So we know when it was deployed, how it was deployed and was it deployed for policy.

Have there been any complaints made [by people affected by the pepper ball]?

No, no. No complaints to my knowledge. But, it doesn't take a complaint for us to investigate and take action. Just based on what you saw and then Avi got a hold of a lieutenant and asked, "Hey, what happened here?" We have a good working relationship. Any time he -- or, really, anybody -- sees something that's out of the ordinary for police operations, they know they can tell us and bring it to our attention and we'll address it. And that was one going, "Hey, what's going on here? Was this is an overreaction, a little overreaction on an officer's part?" And, again, it won't be out on the streets. It is an effective resource to utilize, but in very strict conditions.

Like when it was used Sunday night -- when people were shooting fireworks at officers?

Look, we know how to clear a crowd all the time. And we know what tactics work, and we know what tactics don't work. And like on Lowest Greenville, we know how to clear the sidewalks. We know what time frame it takes. Now, if we had a fight and the fight started escalating and it's pretty localized, then, yeah, you could use a pepper-ball launcher. But not when you have a lot of cross-contamination -- you have people coming out of businesses who have no clue what's going on and all of a sudden they're inhaling that dust, then that's uncalled for.

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