Who’s Running Dallas? Big Changes in Law Enforcement – Know Your Rights With Police
Major changes here in Dallas in the world of crime and criminal justice. Big ones. What’s the likelihood that rights will be trampled in the process?
From a criminal defense perspective, all these changes are a red flag for wrongful arrests, unconstitutional searches and seizures, and more. Why? What’s going on here in North Texas?
Well, in some ways real life is like television. Crimes are committed. There are those in the criminal justice system that investigate and prosecute those crimes. There are the criminals and the accused (let’s not get those two mixed up); the victims; and of course, the defense attorneys.
It’s complicated, right? Add to that there are two systems, state and federal, operating at once. Sometimes in joint efforts. Sometimes independent of each other. Both state and federal criminal justice systems are doing the same thing theoretically: protecting and serving you and me.
All their efforts are controlled by the federal constitution (including its Bill of Rights) as well as important federal and state laws designed to protect privacy and freedom and limit police powers. At the best of times, there’s a risk that an individual’s rights will be disregarded.
When things are in flux or political or confusing or pressured, the danger increases for your legal rights to be abused.
Fruit Basket Turnover in Dallas
Let’s stop to consider recent events in these systems here in North Texas, and particularly Dallas and its surrounding communities. It’s a fruit basket turnover of sorts. Power is shifting all over the place. Within a few week’s time.
1. Dallas Police Department
This week, Dallas Police Chief David Brown retired. Chief Brown served in law enforcement for 33 years, and had won the respect of many in his helm as the city’s Top Cop.
He is reported to be the longest-serving chief of police for the Dallas Police Department. Chief Brown had announced his last day would be later in the month, but no. He’s no longer chief as of October 4, 2016. Chief Brown will be missed.
Who’s running the DPD?
The Fort Worth Star Telegram reports that assistant chief David Pughes will run the Dallas Police Department as its interim chief. A permanent replacement will be chosen by the new city manager in 2017. Pughes is a veteran, but who knows if he get the job.
2. Dallas Police Association
Also this week, the head of the Dallas Police Association, Ron Pinkston, retires. This the organization that represents the majority of Dallas police officers (their union).
Think those guys that come in, to sit beside the officers being investigated by Internal Affairs on all those Law and Order shows. It’s that kind of group. The union head is retiring; this must be unsettling for police officers, especially in the current climate.
Who’s running the DPA?
The Dallas Observer reports that first vice president Frederick Frazier will run the Dallas Police Association for now. There will be a DPA general election in December to decide Pinkston’s permanent replacement.
3. Dallas City Manager
Back in May, A.C. Gonzalez announced his retirement as City Manager. His job is to oversee how the city’s budget is spent, which includes things like hiring the new police chief. His last day will be in January 2017.
No one knows who Gonzalez’s replacement will be — the city hired a search firm last month to help find candidates for the job. They should be ready to take over when Gonzalez steps down in 90 days.
4. Dallas Police Officers
A couple of weeks ago, it was announced that pay raises had been approved for the Dallas Police Department. Funds were also approved to hire 449 new police officers for the DPD.
Who’s Policing the Streets?
This is part of a fight to get Dallas police officers to stay on the job. Many Dallas police officers have quit the force. There has not been a rush of recruits applying to be a police officer here. DPD is feeling the need for more manpower. Hundreds of officers are needed — that’s a big need.
Some former DPD officers haven’t gone far, however: lots were lateral hires in other North Texas law enforcement departments.
Which means that right now, the DPD has to stretch its manpower as best it can. In the future, newbies will be walking the beat.
5. Dallas District Attorney
The head prosecutor for Dallas County is our District Attorney. The DA oversees a staff of prosecutors known as “Assistant District Attorneys,” or “ADAs” who try criminal cases for the state. ADAs are the prosecutors for everything from capital murder trials to Class C misdemeanors.
Last month, Susan Hawk resigned as Dallas County District Attorney after serving 18 months in office. You’ve probably read about this departure.
Who’s Running the District Attorney’s Office?
Right now (October), her job is being covered by members of her staff (as was done when DA Hawk was on medical leave).
Governor Abbott will appoint her replacement. Their first day on the job is scheduled for November 1, 2016.
WFAA reports that the new District Attorney candidates include Jennifer J. Balido, Daniel P. “Danny” Clancy, Vickers L. Cunningham, Faith S. Johnson, Dianne Jones McVay, Cindy Stormer, Daniel L. “Dan” Wyde, Taly Haffer, and Daniel K. Hagood.
6. United States Attorneys for Northern District and Eastern Districts of Texas
Our part of the state is overlapped by two federal jurisdictions: the Northern and the Eastern Judicial Districts. Each federal judicial district has its own top prosecutor, the federal version of a district attorney. These are the “U.S.Attorneys” and they oversee a staff of lawyers who prosecute federal criminal cases within their district. They’re called the “AUSAs” for Assistant U.S. Attorneys.
It’s a presidential election year. These guys are appointed to their positions and most federal appointments have a political component. Right now, these are the top federal prosecutors for North Texas, but that might change soon: John R. Parker, Northern District (appointed in 2014) and John Malcolm Bales (appointed in 2009).
The Dallas Law Enforcement Fruit Basket Turnover: Let’s Recap
In the past four weeks, the police chief and the district attorney have left office. So has the head of the DPD union. The city manager has put in his notice; he’s out the door in 90 days. We have an understaffed police department with a need for literally hundreds of officers to do the job. And it’s unclear if the new money allotted for police officer raises will be enough to stem the tide of experienced officers quiting the force (over 130 quit in calendar year 2016).
Then there’s the federal side of things. Will there be changes over in the federal prosecutors’ offices after the presidential election? What will change, if anything, in the policies of the Department of Justice after the new president takes office?
What This Means to You – Proposed New Law to Educate on Rights with Police
You need to understand your rights insofar as police and prosecutors. If you are detained by police in Dallas, or if you are arrested, then it’s extremely important that you know your legal rights.
It’s vital that you protect those rights. You have to know them to protect them. This isn’t a radical concept.
Down in Austin, the chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee is pushing to pass a new state law that would have high school students taught their rights when they are pulled over by police in a traffic stop.
The proposed law would also include the Department of Public Safety putting language in its driver’s guidelines that explains the driver’s rights when they are pulled over by law enforcement.
Recent posts here on the blog have dealt with issues of arrest in the federal system and in the state system, as well as getting bail and bonding out, and knowing when you’re detained versus arrested.
Please read them. Understand the system.
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