Dallas District 5 Hosts Policing Review Board Town-Hall Meeting

Dallas City Hall.

On Tuesday Sept. 7, District 5 Council Member and Mayor Pro Tem Jaime Resendez was joined by other members of the Board to host a town hall meeting to allow residents an opportunity to voice questions and ask for answers in the way the police interact with residents.

Numerous community members voiced concerns that the Oversight Board has too little public presence. Issues noted include a lack of community outreach that has led to many people not understanding the purpose of the Board. Many other people are not aware of the Board’s existence, let alone that it is there to assist the public.

The lack of outreach was evident in the low turnout for the town hall. Only a small handful of residents arrived, and most had ties to the Oversight Board in one manner or another.

“It’s sad. It’s a sad job,” said Jesuorobo Enobakhare Jr., Chairman of the Police Oversight Committee. “I’m going to tell you the sad reality is that events like this, not too many people show up to but if someone had been killed by police or killed by a criminal and we were here to discuss that, it’d be standing room only.”

Tonya McClary, Monitor/Director of the Office of Community Oversight told the audience that Covid-19 had hampered the ability to reach out to the community, but that changes would be coming. In fact, the town hall was the first public meeting that the Dallas Police had held since 2019.

The Oversight Board town hall was advertised on Facebook an hour before the meeting and through a press release issued to community members and members of the media signed up with the City of Dallas distributed on Tuesday morning, but no other outreach was done.

McClary said that her office had asked that someone do community engagement, but funding isn’t included in the budget. The office was created and McClary started in February 2020, about two weeks before Dallas entered pandemic protocols and outreach was put on the backburner.

“We were right on the precipice of (more outreach), and then the new strain came through and started kicking our numbers back up,” McClary said. “As soon as we can get ahold of this Covid, I promise you that we will be out.”

Several residents mentioned that most of the city outreach is online, but many residents don’t have access to high-speed internet access or smartphones. McClary showed a printed flyer that she said is now in every public library in the city.

“The next step is getting (the flyer) in every rec center in the city,” McClary said of the renewed attention to community outreach. “Another goal of my office is to find at least one place in every district where community members can come in to file complaints, so I’m going to be looking for community members who are willing to be trained to take in your complaints. It’s a small start, but at least it’s a start.”

The Dallas Police Department has been instituting new policies of oversight and community accountability for several years, spearheaded by former Chief of Police Renea Hall who resigned in 2020 after criticism from the City Council over the handling of anti-police demonstrations following the killing of George Floyd.

New Police Chief Eddie Garcia has continued to institute changes, including the way in which police officers engage people exhibiting an altered state of mind, body and in-car camera footage releases to the public, and other areas the department can improve to be more publicly transparent.

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