Back in February the Austin American-Statesman published a great investigation on so-called Brady lists. These are records kept by prosecutors identifying local police officers with credibility issues that are sometimes so severe that they the DA's office will no longer accept cases from them or allow them to testify in court.
Part of the Statesman story focused on just how much trouble the reporters had getting Brady lists. A lot of Texas DAs wouldn't hand them over, and they were ultimately backed by the Texas Attorney General's Office, which ruled that they were not subject to open records laws.
A notable exception was Dallas County DA Craig Watkins, who was still in office when the Statesman did much of its reporting. His office, the story noted, passed along a spreadsheet with the names of 192 officers with minimal fuss.
Following the Statesman story, I submitted a request of my own to the DA's office, which was now under Susan Hawk. Given that her campaign was largely premised on bringing transparency and openness back to the DA's office, it seemed that releasing a document her predecessor had freely given to reporters a few months before would be a minor thing.
To the contrary, Hawk's office has sat on my request for more than a month. Under Texas open records law, a governmental body has 10 business days to fulfill -- or ask the AG's office whether it has to fulfill -- an open records request. Even if we're generous and don't count Good Friday or the week of Passover, it's been a lot longer than 10 business days. Yet, when I checked in on the status of my request on Tuesday, the response from Hawk's spokeswoman was much the same as it had been: "I have not forgotten about you, we are still working on this."
Meanwhile, a few days ago, I reached out to Eric Dexheimer, one of the Statesman reporters on the story. I wasn't the only one. This morning, Dexheimer published the Dallas County Brady list with a blog post: "Dallas County won't release bad cop list. So we will."
Yet a few weeks later, when we contacted newly elected Dallas County DA Susan Hawk in an effort to answer questions about the list, she declined to speak to us. And since our article came out, we've received pleas from a steady stream of people -- many of them defense attorneys -- for a copy of the list after Hawk's office had refused to release it to them.
A spokeswoman for Hawk's office, First Assistant District Attorney Messina Madson, said that there had been no change in policy. But she explained that her boss wanted to review Watkins' Brady cop list, as well as the office policy on how to handle it, before responding to new requests for copies. "We're reviewing each case and coming up with a policy on how we're going to deal with it," she said. Madson added that the review was "a top priority," but said there was no timetable on when a new list might be available to the public.
That new era of openness and transparency didn't last long.
Update at 2:22 p.m. Friday April 17: What a difference a day makes. Hawk's office just passed along a copy of the Brady list you see below, plus a statement from Hawk:
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The list of officers we have provided to you under the Public Information Act was not generated under this administration. However, our office is currently in the process of developing a policy to establish a "Do Not Testify" list of officers whom we will not be sponsoring for testimony. This is a top priority for this administration as we work to ensure justice.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.