DPD's Chief Cato Defends, Apologizes For His Role in Decision to Send Officers to Accompany Friday's Funeral Procession

I was out of the office Friday evening when the e-mail from City Manager Mary Suhm first came in alerting media to the fact several Dallas police officers had been called in by Deputy Chief Julian Bernal to provide a funeral escort for DPD Chief David Brown's son. By now you've no doubt heard: Suhm has said that the escort was provided without her "knowledge, approval and contrary to [her] specific instructions," and she's ordered an investigation. Bernal has said it needed to be done and has refused calls for his resignation.

Then came this morning's news: First Assistant Chief Charlie Cato, Brown's second-in-command, was in the car with Bernal when he  ordered the escort. Till now, there's been no comment from Cato. But moments ago, his letter to his fellow officers arrived in the in-box, and it is below in full:

Letter to the Dallas Police Department from First Assistant Chief Charles Cato

To Members of the Dallas Police Department:

On the day of the funeral for Chief Brown's son I was Acting Chief of Police. I attended the funeral and was present in the procession to the graveside ceremonies. Deputy Chief Julian Bernal was in the vehicle with me at this time. My impression of the procession was that it was larger than anticipated and quickly exceeded the capacity of the two assigned private escorts. After the procession began in Plano, circumstances began to develop, including intermittent rain, heavy traffic and an accident at Walnut Hill Lane that caused both Chief Bernal and I to become concerned about public safety. 

Chief Bernal and I discussed options to make the procession and public motorists safer. The decision was made to request assistance from motor officers if any were available. I concurred and take responsibility for this decision. The decision to utilize these resources was unplanned and the sole purpose of their presence was to address the immediate public safety issue.   

As police officers, we are required to make daily decisions and be judged by the impact of those decisions. Chief Bernal and I must also be held to this standard. We recognized there might be concerns about our decision. I truly regret and apologize to anyone who has been offended or hurt by this decision. Please know that neither I nor Chief Bernal intended in any way to be disrespectful to any fallen officer. I believe that both he and I have demonstrated our commitment to fallen officers and their families during our careers. Our deepest regret is that our decisions on Friday may detract from the Department's history in this regard.

The City Manager has informed me that an investigation will be conducted concerning the actions taken on Friday. I want to assure you that I will fully cooperate with and accept the outcome of this investigation.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky