Commission Proposes Police Oversight Director Answer to Council

Dallas City Hall | Image by halbergman/Getty Images

The Charter Review Commission decided on Tuesday to recommend that the director of the Office of Community Police Oversight report to the council instead of the city manager.

If the Dallas City Council accepts the Charter Review Commission’s recommendation and voters approve the change in November, the reporting change would come into effect.

“I do think we have a structural problem here,” said Commissioner Angela Hunt of District 14. “This is one that could actually impact our citizens in a very positive way to create checks and balances. You don’t really get checks and balances when the same person appointing the police chief is also over the community police commission. So, I will be supporting this resolution.”

Under the existing structure, the city manager hires the director of that office. A charter revision would shift that responsibility to the Dallas City Council.

Activist Dominique Alexander, founder of Dallas-based Next Generation Action Network, supported the proposed recommendation, named Amendment 101.

In the proposal, Alexander requested the change “to increase transparency to the city council and the public about the affairs of the Dallas Police Department.”

Alexander did not attend the CRC meeting on March 26, but Brandon Friedman, the Community Police Oversight Board’s District 14 representative, talked extensively about what he described as a flawed oversight system.

“There’s been a good bit of chaos surrounding the city’s police oversight office this past summer,” Friedman said. “That’s why this proposed amendment has come before the commission. I won’t rehash the details, but suffice it to say, the entire episode has reaffirmed for me an idea that I’ve long held, which is that there is an inherent conflict present when the city manager can hire, supervise, and fire the person responsible for day-to-day [operations]. Police oversight offices should be independent, much like an inspector general.”

Friedman served as an Army officer in Iraq and Afghanistan and worked for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Affairs during the Obama administration.

“The Office of Community Police Oversight is not one that provides city services like sanitation, street repair or permitting,” Friedman added. “This is an office that oversees a city service responsibility for it. Therefore, it should fall directly under the city council. So, I’m here to encourage that.”

“There was a lot that happened,” continued Friedman. “As you may recall, there was an incident with Dallas police officers regarding … DyNell Lane, who’s an Afghanistan veteran. He was forced to soil himself in Deep Ellum one evening. He raised a complaint about the police, and it became a viral news story. In the wake of that, the director of police oversight for the city was removed. The chief investigator was removed. The Police Oversight Board was never told … why this happened.”

The case Friedman referred to involved DyNell Lane, a disabled veteran who was denied access to a restroom at a Deep Ellum business and soiled himself, per The Dallas Morning News. Police body-cam footage showed four Dallas officers laughing over the incident.

Commissioner Miguel Solis of District 2 said the oversight system worked in Lane’s case.

“The city council members make their actual appointments to the committee — the Police Oversight Board,” Solis said. “The board functions as an advisory committee to the city council. They’re required, per the charter, to provide reports to the city council committees. They’re also an advisory to the police chief. And I will tell you that I know very intimately about the Mr. Lane investigation … and I would say this is an instance where the oversight worked.”

Still, mistakes were made, Solis confessed.

“The chief himself has sent communication indicating that they missed an important step in the early part of the investigation,” Solis said. “And it was because it went to the oversight that the investigation continued or was initiated.”

Members of the Community Police Oversight Board are appointed by Dallas City Council members — not unlike members of other council committees. As such, the board reports to the city council, and the Office of Community Police Oversight operates independently of the advisory body.

The interim police monitor, Elaine Chandler, oversees the Office of Community Police Oversight while City officials search for a director, per DMN. A new monitor may not be hired until June.

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