Dallas police’s arrest of the wife of Republican gubernatorial candidate Allen West has become another battleground for transparency in local government.
On September 29, the City of Dallas appealed to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to reject record requests from multiple media organizations, including Texas Scorecard, arguing privacy and other concerns. We asked for all footage of the August 20 arrest of Angela West, as well as all photographs and the arrest report.
Dallas Police Officer Lydia Harris arrested West that evening for driving while intoxicated with a child under 15 years old (West’s grandchild, 3 months old at the time, was in the car). But on September 1, West was vindicated of the charges when the DPD’s toxicology report came back negative for alcohol or drugs.
The DPD released an edited video of the arrest on August 23, but DPD Sgt. Warren Mitchell told us we “should be able” to get the entire video—”with the required redactions”—through an open records request.
Now, we—and the public—must wait until Paxton’s office responds.
“Anytime a governmental body seeks to withhold records under the Public Information Act, they are making a choice. And it is one that should raise an eyebrow from the general public,” attorney Tony McDonald said. “What are they trying to hide?”
Texas Scorecard contacted every member of the Dallas City Council and the office of Mayor Eric Johnson, asking if this appeal is in line with their policy of transparency. No response was received before publication.
Allen West gave no comment when asked about Dallas’ appeal.
When the DPD’s edited video was released, citizens critiqued how Officer Harris conducted the sobriety tests and said the arrest seemed unjustified.
“[Angela West] was obviously not intoxicated,” Paula Sanders commented.
Angela West alleged certain details were left out of the edited video, including her telling Harris she takes no prescription medication or “street drugs.” DPD Sgt. Mitchell said “some of the dead space you hear in the shorten[ed] version were redactions required by law.”
West also alleged Harris refused her request to speak with an attorney and pressured her to say she hadn’t recently been near anyone who had tested positive for the Chinese coronavirus, though she had.
Citizen criticism of the DPD continued after the toxicology report results were made public, while city council members and Mayor Johnson remained largely silent.
During the August 23 press conference about the arrest, Police Chief Eddie Garcia said, “When we’re wrong, we’re wrong; and we will hold ourselves accountable.”
The Angela West incident is only one of many recent examples of Texans fighting for transparency in their local governments through records requests under the Texas Public Information Act (PIA). Citizens in the North Texas Carroll Independent School District organized and pressed school officials to finally expose controversial curriculum they were hiding from the public, resulting in board members getting indicted.
Information on the PIA can be found at the Texas attorney general’s website.