Demonstrators Continue Taking To The Streets To Demand Police Reform. Cops Keep Finding Themselves On The Wrong Side Of The Law. Will Anything Change?
For 71 days now, Dallasites have taken to the streets to protest, march and chant in support of police reform. And what do they have to show for it?
While the Dallas Police Department has indeed made some concessions in response to the public’s demands — including promises to not use less-lethal weapons on “peaceful” protesters and to release body camera footage of officer-involved incidents within 72 hours of those events taking place (we’ll have more coverage on these newly installed policies in the coming week or so) — these handful of changes haven’t yet done much to calm the ongoing protest activity.
Is anyone listening? Optimistically, one might point to the Dallas city government being on its annual July-long recess as reason for the delay in action. More pessimistically — and especially in light of the reveal that DPD had been keeping under wraps the already internally confirmed details of its violent early protest response as the public continuously demanded those details while calling for the ousting of its top officials — one might roll their eyes and suggest area law enforcement agencies and officials are simply hoping the public’s frustrations will boil over as they have in the past, allowing officials to continue conducting business as usual sooner or later.
But, amidst all the social unrest and accusations that cops believe themselves to be above the laws they are asked to uphold, a number of area officers aren’t really doing their open-to-reform peers any favors. Instead, they’re getting into trouble and providing ammunition to their critics.
Here are just a handful of the more-surprising headlines area police officers have garnered of late:
- On July 30, 35-year-old Dallas police officer Daniel Collins, a senior corporal assigned to DPD’s Auto Theft Unit, was charged with transportation of child pornography after he was found to have uploaded sexually explicit images of children to “various Gmail accounts” while using the City of Dallas’ employee internet.
- On July 30, three Tarrant County detention officers were arrested on charges relating to the use of excessive force on an inmate whose cell they entered. Per an arrest affidavit that references video of the incident, the officers “slammed” the inmate onto his bunk before “punching him several times.” The inmate was later hospitalized with a collapsed lung, multiple rib fractures and a broken cheek bone, but the officers never filed an incident report on the interaction. Detention officer Reginald Lowe was arrested for Aggravated Assault Serious Bodily Injury, and detention officers Lewis Velasquez and Dakota Coston were arrested for Official Oppression.
- On June 14, 41-year-old Dallas police officer James Gordon, who has been with DPD since 2014, was arrested on charges of criminal trespassing of a habitation after Fort Worth police responded to a domestic disturbance call at his ex-wife’s home at 4 in the morning.
Additionally, at around 10 p.m. on July 19, an off-duty Dallas police officer struck and killed a pedestrian along the 8100 block of the LBJ Freeway service road while driving his personal vehicle home after a shift at work. According to police reports, the pedestrian died at the scene after having “stepped off a curb onto the street, directly in front of the officer’s vehicle.” It is unclear whether any charges were filed against the officer.
While it’s worth acknowledging that arrests were made in the other above-listed officer-involved cases, and also that Dallas’ top brass is reportedly in the process of implementing data analytics that could help them identify problem officers early on, North Texans have reason to remain skeptical over the lack of repercussions so-called officers receive when they’re caught breaking the law.
They’re also justified in wondering if any substantial change is coming down the pike. Even as community leaders call for a reallocation of police funding alongside protesters, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson is still pushing for an increase in Dallas’ police budget as his preferred response to the city’s recent spikes in violent crime.
After a summer’s worth of protests, and the increased scrutiny over policing in Dallas that’s come with those demonstrations, it remains wholly unclear if anyone in charge will be able to address the public’s concerns.
Not helping matters? The timing of Friday’s news that the attorneys for former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger have filed an appeal requesting an acquittal on the murder charge she was convicted on last October. That high-profile case, you no doubt recall, centered around Guyger — also on her way home from working a shift, not unlike the above pedestrian-striking officer — allegedly mistaking the 26-year-old Botham Jean’s apartment for her own within the same building. After entering his unit, Guyger then shot and killed Jean while he was watching TV and eating ice cream.
A jury of her peers gave her a 10-year prison sentence for the crime. The judge presiding over the case gave her a hug. And now Guyger’s lawyers are asking for even more concessions in her favor.
In Dallas, as anywhere else, change comes slow if ever at all.
Then again, on the other hand, Jean might be getting a street named after him. So, y’know, there’s that.