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Texas Police Excessive Force: Concern Isn’t Just the Police Officer, It’s the Entire Police Department

For the past two nights, there has been rioting in Ferguson, Missouri, in the aftermath of the grand jury determination not to bring charges against a police officer who used lethal force. That’s Missouri; what about police and lethal force here in Dallas and North Texas? Good question.

1. Dallas Web Site: Police Department’s Lethal Force Information

This week, the Dallas Police Department debuted its new web site, DallasPolice, which provides the public with information about the use of the maximum kind of excessive force — lethal force — by Dallas police officers since 2003.  Anyone living or working in the Dallas area is well aware of the shocking number of fatal shootings by Dallas Police in the past decade; for details on officer involved shootings (OIS).

The new Dallas Police Department website includes an explanation from the Dallas Chief of Police on why the web site is being published (transparency) and how the department investigates reports of OIS.

2. New Dallas DA Promises Body Cameras for Dallas Police Department

Newly elected Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk, who takes over for the current District Attorney in January, also announced this week that she is going to purchase body cameras for all 2500 police officers in the Dallas Police Department as long as Police Chief Brown agrees it’s a good idea. Guess where the money to pay for these expensive cameras is coming from?

The FORFEITURE account: that’s right, the account where the police take assets (money, cash, property) etc., from citizens and keeps it.

Police forfeitures for profit is a national concern in its own right. See, “The Forfeiture Epidemic: When the Government Just Takes Your Property and Keeps It.”

This isn’t a new idea – putting cameras on our cops. There has been a national campaign to have all police officers wearing body cameras in response to the events in Ferguson this summer. See,”The Mike Brown Law: Will Police Be Required to Wear Body Cameras?

 

3. This Week, Dallas Excessive Force Arrest Results in Police Officer Charged and Fired

A video was released earlier this week by the Dallas Police Department showing Police Officer Jesus Martinez arresting a homeless man (see the video below) and using excessive force (warning: this video might be disturbing for some to watch). Officer Martinez has been charged with official oppression and he’s been fired from his job.

This was excessive force, but not lethal force. And it’s not like this story is the standard procedure we’ve seen here in our area. The Dallas Police Department has had to pay over $6,000,000 in damages on Excessive Force charges in a mere 3 year time period.

 

Problems of the Single Police Officer and Problem of the Entire Police Department

Transparent police reporting online, firing officers who use excessive force, body cameras? These actions are all steps in the right direction to solve the real problem here of police excessive force here in Dallas and North Texas.

However, from a criminal defense point of view, we’ve got real concerns here — and they are beyond the idea of a single officer’s actions against a single citizen. We’ve got the bigger issue of police departments as a whole taking worrisome steps.  Steps that challenge constitutional rights like privacy, and search and seizure, and the right against self-incrimination.

Consider:

4. Militarization of Police Departments

There is still a problem of police departments here in our state — and other parts of the country — where the police departments are stocking up with used military equipment. In North Texas, military surplus equipment is being sold by the federal government to local police departments under a federal law that provides for this sort of thing.

Think about this: $500,000 was spent by the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office to buy an 18-ton mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles.

Even police officers on SCHOOL DISTRICT CAMPUSES are getting this stuff.

Why do the police departments need military equipment that was designed for places like the Iraqi battlefront?  Scary, isn’t it?

5. Spying by Police Departments

This, in addition to police departments working with federal agencies to use spy software like Stingrays to access private information on cell phones without a search warrant. For more on this problem, read “Seal Broken by Judge Today and Now We Know How The Police Are Eavesdropping on Public With Stingray Devices.”

Also, police departments in Texas have been using drones to monitor people for several years now. Montgomery County has been operating a Condor Drone since 2011; this drone can read your car’s license plate from its place from in the sky a half mile away.

So, do we have a real problem with police power in this country, and in the State of Texas, and here in Dallas? What do you think?


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