The Dallas Police Oversight Board that provides civilian input on discipline of police needs more discipline itself, according to several city council members.
“We want to have a relationship. We want to have transparency but we want to be sure there’s no misunderstanding as we proceed,” Council Member Carolyn Arnold said.
The comments came Wednesday at a briefing from Tonya McClary who was hired last year from New Orleans to be the Dallas Police Monitor and Director of the Office of Police Oversight.
McClary said she has attended police brutality demonstrations this year and promoted existence of the board to protestors.
“The message has just been to let the public know that we exist. So, there hasn’t been a particular rally cry. We don’t get on and say anything derogatory about the Dallas Police Department. It has been informative,” McClary said.
McClary and Board Chairman Jesuorobo Enobakhare described the board’s work and accomplishments over the past year since board authority was expanded and a new board appointed.
The new city budget expands the oversight board paid staff from three people including McClary to five. McClary has been granted access to Dallas PD internal affairs records. She said cooperation with police is important.
Councilman Casey Thomas who worked on creating the reformed oversight board praised the accomplishments. He said it is unlike Wolfe City in Hunt County where a police officer has just been arrested for the death of a resident.
“This police oversight board is an example for other cities,” Thomas said. “It’s possible for us to ensure our community that their voice is going to be heard through any significant investigation and any police or officer involved incident.”
Other members took issue with a recommendation approved by the board to be sent to the city council about changing city policy to eliminate low level marijuana cases at the suggestion of District Attorney John Creuzot.
“I don’t think that’s their decision. They can offer that suggestion, but that was a strange vote,” Council Member Cara Mendelsohn said.
Mendelsohn also questioned the manner of that board vote, which she said was taken while some oversight board members said they still wanted more information about the issue.
“I think there’s some governance issues,” Mendelsohn said.
Enobakhare responded that no violations were intended and his board is still finding its way through new territory.
“Our role is not to direct you as far as policy. We make a recommendation and you the city council decide if you want to accept that advice or not,” he said.
Council Member Arnold said she agreed that the oversight board should not be the policy makers. She also questioned oversight board plans to appoint subcommittees that could include additional residents who are not currently oversight board members appointed by the city council.
Arnold claimed some police brutality demonstrators who participated in Dallas protests were paid, out of town people. She worried that paid protestors who are not Dallas residents could wind up on the subcommittees.
“We don’t want that as a part of this board,” Arnold said.
At the suggestion of Mayor Eric Johnson, City Council Public Safety Committee Chairman Adam McGough said his committee would review oversight board responsibilities. Council Member Jennifer Gates said her Government Accountability Committee will review oversight board procedures and subcommittee assignments.
Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall supported the expanded civilian police oversight authority. One of the board’s eight pending investigations concerns Hall’s conduct at the first meeting of the new board in October 2019 when citizens in the audience became disruptive.