Since when did passing the buck equate to holding people accountable? This is the question I’d like to pose to Fort Worth’s Race and Culture Task Force.

In response to last year’s arrest of Jacqueline Craig that stoked racial tensions, the city put together a task force to come up with proposals on how to address the overall racial situation. These proposals were presented Tuesday night, and the Fort Worth City Council voted 8 to 0 (with one not voting) to explore and come up with recommendations based on these proposals.

One of the proposals is to create a civilian review board with oversight over the Fort Worth Police Department. As a believer in liberty, I fully support checks and balances at all levels in our government. But this board would actually be nothing of the sort. The proposal outlines some of the possible limitations of the board:

  • It can NOT require officers to appear before it.
  • It can NOT award money damages for citizens.
  • It can NOT discipline police officers.
  • It can NOT decide who was right and wrong in a particular case.

Then what exactly is the point of this board? Following the recommendations on what this board could do would create little more than a forum where citizens can take allegations about members of our police department to people who are powerless to do anything about their problems. This is accountability?

What’s more, this board would be unelected and unaccountable, which at least makes sense considering how powerless it would be. If it were to be vested with real power, then it should also be made accountable; and if not elected, then there should be a clear path for citizens to remove members of this board for the very reason why some call for its creation: to provide checks against abuse of power.

The truth is, we don’t need this board because the City of Fort Worth already has an oversight board over our police department: city council and the city manager! The council sets policies and procedures, and then the city manager enforces them. If we the people encounter abuse of power by any member of the police department, we can go to the council who will be able to take action. And if they don’t, then we can vote them out of power. Creating an unelected and powerless board merely passes the buck and will frustrate citizens who encounter real abuse. Just look at Chicago and Houston, where people have decried the pointlessness of their own boards.

If the goal here is to create sunlight to expose any bad eggs hiding amongst our fine officers, better to create an environment where good officers are praised, and bad ones are deterred and removed, and any racism that may be hiding in the shadows is rooted out. Then let the buck stop at city council.

I encourage all the citizens of Fort Worth to watch this process very carefully and urge their council members to stop the oversight board.

This is an outside commentary submitted and published with the author’s permission. If you wish to submit a commentary to Texas Scorecard, please submit your article to submission@empowertexans.com.

Robert Montoya

A former filmmaker, University of North Texas graduate, and one-time assistant language teacher, Robert Montoya misses Japan and the 1980s. He is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard.

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