Group of Black Lawyers and Judges Seeks Dallas Police Data to Root Out Brutality

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The National Bar Association says it has filed an open-records request with the Dallas Police Department for information regarding police brutality.
A national organization of black lawyers and judges is still awaiting a response from the Dallas Police Department to the group's recent request for 10 years worth of public information "regarding the number of individuals who have been killed, racially profiled, wrongfully arrested and/or injured while pursued or in police custody."

National Bar Association President Pamela Meanes says the group is seeking data from 25 cities that have a history of police violence in minority communities. She expects the police departments to be cooperative, and the group has already heard back from Kansas City and Little Rock, Arkansas. The association will sue if necessary to get the data.

"The ultimate goal is to identify police departments that have a pattern of abuse so the the federal government can come in," she says.

At least some of information her group is seeking may soon be available online to everyone. Dallas Police Chief David Brown told a community meeting Thursday night that the department will soon publish, for the first time, information on officers' use of deadly force. "This will be detailed briefings of all our police shootings dating back to 2003 to current," he said.

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Dallas County Will Not Ban In-Person Visits for Inmates After All

Andreas Praefcke
Still open for visits.

Dallas County commissioners are asking for new bids on a controversial contract for the management of visitation and phone services to jail inmates, after County Judge Clay Jenkins and inmate advocates objected to a proposal that would have ended face-to-face visits while letting the county profit off families visiting their jailed loved one via video.

The original version of the contract with Securus, a local technology company, would have obligated the county to cut off in-person visits to promote remote video visits, from which both Securus and the county would reap payments.

Jenkins led the fight against the contract's approval, telling supporters in an email that "video and phone companies hook elected leaders to the sugar of 'commissions' the contracted company share with local government while socking the cost to the loved ones of the incarcerated with a high priced scheme."

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Dallas ISD's Own iWatch Allows Kids to Tell On Each Other for Way Less Than $350

This is the headquarters of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services division, which sifts through law enforcement data. Is your anonymous tip to the Dallas PD just ending up here?
For Dan Elliott, his life's work and now-generous income was born out of a horrendous family tragedy 25 years ago. "I got 'the call' from my mother, who told me that I needed to go tell my younger brother that his fiancee had been murdered," says a stoic Elliott. "Someone had decided that he wanted to be her new boyfriend. And she rejected his affections and he beat her to death with a jewelry mallet 300 times. And then forensically cleaned her apartment for 6 hours, including bathing her corpse. The case is unsolved."

While he seems to have his own theories on the case, Elliott says current social media use and the Clery Act, which was passed a few years after the murder, could have helped law enforcement track down the murderer. It would take another several years before Elliott applied his grief to his business. He started out working with the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas formulating maps to show local crime. "My 'aha' moment was, we should not just tell people where crime was," he says, "we should ask them where it is."

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A Reminder That Texas Cops Still Don't Need a Warrant to Collect Cell-Phone Metadata

Flickr user arlo_
Big brother is watching.
Even without cell-phone metadata placing him near his ex-girlfriend's San Antonio condo in the early morning hours of New Year's Day 2009, prosecutors may still have convinced jurors that Jon Thomas Ford was guilty of her murder. There was the testimony of their friends at the party he'd stormed out of early, pictures from an ATM camera showing his car pulling into her complex, his DNA on the blood-soaked towel found covering her face when her body was discovered on the bathroom floor. The cell-phone records, which investigators used to triangulate Ford's general location based on its communication with cell towers and track his incoming calls, just made it that much easier for prosecutors to debunk Ford's claim that he'd headed straight home after the party and gone to bed.

The thing about those phone records was that police obtained them without a warrant. Ford argued on appeal that this was illegal, that the metadata should never have been allowed to be introduced as evidence, and that, as a result, his 40-year prison sentence should be thrown out.

The problem for Ford, as San Antonio's 4th Court of Appeals pointed out last month when it rejected Ford's plea, is that, more than a year after Edward Snowden leaked secret U.S. surveillance information, the warrantless collection of cell-phone metadata is still perfectly legal in Texas.

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Grand Jury No-Bills Duncanville Officers in Clint Peterson Shooting

Clint Peterson
Clint Peterson's on-again, off-again girlfriend called the police on October 28 to report that he showed up uninvited to her house that morning and vandalized her car. She says she warned the dispatcher that Peterson also sometimes carried a fake gun and may have had it on him. The girlfriend was still on the phone when Duncanville Police Department officers arrived to her house on Kelly Court. In less than a minute, witnesses say, one of the officers shot and killed Peterson as he was running away.

A Dallas County grand jury finally got the case this week and decided on Thursday not to indict any of the three officers who responded to the call.

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Would Texas' Stand Your Ground Law Protect The Dallas Officers Who Shot Unarmed Suspects?

Daniel Oines
A strange, but probably pretty important, question concerning Texas' stand your ground law.
Since August 10, Dallas police officers have shot six people, killing four of them. Most were armed and a threat to others. One, Andrew Scott Gaynier, was unarmed, though police say he lunged at the off-duty officer who shot him.

The events surrounding the shooting of an unarmed teen in Ferguson, Missouri, the fact that Gaynier was unarmed, but apparently enough of a threat for an officer to use deadly force,and memories of Trayvon Martin got us here at Unfair Park doing a little free associating. What if Gaynier's shooter was just another civilian, not a police officer? And how would Texas' "stand your ground" law come into play?

First, some historical context. In the last 10 years, according to a search of The Dallas Morning News archives on the public library's website, Dallas officers have shot 10 men who were not carrying weapons. In the same time span, there were three officer-involved shootings in which there was some debate as to whether the suspect was unarmed.

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Dallas County Will Help Pay for a Gun Surrender Program for Domestic Violence Offenders

Ben Pollard via Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this year, Judge Roberto Cañas initiated a countywide program to increase gun surrenders from domestic abusers. It's a law whose lack of enforcement has a history of deadly consequences in Dallas. On Tuesday, the county commissioners court voted to fund nearly a third of the project and approved Cañas' application for state funding. The initiative launches in full across the county this October.

See also: Dallas Judge Cracks Down on Domestic Violence Offenders With Gun Surrender Initiative
Dallas Officer Shoots and Kills Man Who Kidnapped His Own Children

Aaron Setliff is the policy director for the Texas Council on Family Violence. He says that Dallas is spearheading the statewide movement to enforce gun surrender. "It's on the books right now, and a court has everything they need to make that happen," he says. "But we just need to work with communities to make this happen."

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Dallas' Cops Should All Wear Body Cameras, Pretty Much Everyone Agrees

West Midlands Police
Body cams are used in Britain, and now an unlikely pair are calling for all Dallas cops to have them.
In the midst of a string of recent police shootings, the Dallas Police Association, the city's largest police union, has called for all officers to be outfitted with body cameras that record the officers' every move. And the union's receiving support from a group not generally considered an ally: the activist group Dallas Communities Organizing for Change, which has been critical of police misconduct.

At a town hall meeting last Monday, Chief David Brown said the department has 90 such cameras already and is hoping to get the funding for 200 more in the next city budget. But that's not enough, say DPA President Ron Pinkston and DCOC spokesman Walter Higgins.

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Dallas' Police Union Really Doesn't Want DA Craig Watkins to Investigate Police Shootings

DPA President Ron Pinkston doesn't think having two investigations at one crime scene will work out.
Last week, Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins announced the formation of a new Civil Rights Unit, a two-person team that will investigate shootings by officers independent of the police department. Chief David Brown supports the unit. "You can't have enough oversight when it comes to police-involved shootings," he said at Monday's town hall meeting. By being more open to the public about police shootings, the unit is meant to help restore the public's trust in law enforcement, Watkins said.

Engendering public faith in police officers is a goal Ron Pinkston, the Dallas Police Association's president, says he can get behind, but he doesn't take kindly to the fact that, come October 1, two non-police officers will have the full-time job of investigating when one of his members uses deadly force. On Monday, before the town hall meeting, the DPA released its own plan, which Brown can listen to or not, to improve the transparency of the department when one of its own shoots a suspect.

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In Ferguson's Wake, Dallas' Law Enforcement Leaders Faced an Angry Crowd Last Night

Sky Chadde
DA Craig Watkins talks to families of victims of police shootings after his town hall meeting Monday night.
Zion Hayes, 14, stopped wanting to become a police officer last month. Until then, he had so much enthusiasm that he had his mom, Audrey Hayes, threw him a police-themed birthday party. But a run-in with a real Dallas officer changed Zion's career goals. Following a noise complaint at the house where he lives with his mom and two younger brothers-- Hayes says her sons had friends over who where playing loudly -- Zion says two white officers knocked on the door, and one younger brother let them in.

The officers walked to the back room, where Zion sat. He says he turned away from them, but the female officer tapped him on the shoulder to get his attention. When Zion turned back, he says, "I had a very, very strict face on." But, "I was careful not to ball my fists," because, he says, "if I ball my fists then you feel like I'm threatening you." Zion kept his arms down and his palms open.

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