A City of Dallas committee recently refused to allow voters to testify at a meeting on reforming the city’s police review board.
Throughout the month of January, a series of town halls were held across the city to present and gather community feedback on several controversial reforms of the Citizens Police Review Board. The reforms included giving the ineffective board over $1 million of taxpayer funding and subpoena power over police officers, in spite of nationwide evidence that such boards are ineffective and provide little real accountability.
These reforms were put together over several months by a coalition of radical leftist groups, including Accion America, Local Progress, the ACLU of Texas, and the Texas Organizing Project. Voters were told they could comment on the new ideas at a February 11 meeting of the Dallas Public Safety and Justice Committee.
Yet, suddenly, that plan changed.
Concerned voters signed up to speak at the meeting only to be told a week before by email that the committee chair, Dallas City Councilman Adam McGough, had decided not to allow any voters to testify before the committee.
Furthermore, the meeting was removed from the schedule altogether, only to reappear Friday morning, February 9, with Dallas Police Chief Regina Hall scheduled to speak before the committee; this was not on the original agenda.
At the meeting itself, Hall, city council members, CPRB chairman Dr. Brian Williams, and a member of the leftist coalition spoke with each other on the proposed reforms, but not one voter was allowed to participate in the conversation.
When it came to outside comments, only Changa Higgins, head of the leftist Dallas Community Police Oversight Coalition, was summoned to speak—and only at the request of Councilman Philip Kingston.
These actions prompted a number of voters to hold up signs protesting the decision to leave citizens out of the conversation. One group of signs read “NO EXPANSION OF CPRB” while another read “REINSTATE JUVENILE CURFEW.”
Mayor Pro-Tem Casey Thomas called the signs “disrespectful” and McGough informed the voters that signs were not allowed in the meetings, though he did acknowledge there were “other folks that want to talk on this issue.”
“I don’t know if it’s productive at this point in time to open up the gates for additional comment on that side,” McGough said.
Councilwoman Jennifer Gates pushed back, asking McGough if they could have public hearings to give citizens a voice on the issue.
“Let’s take it under consideration,” McGough responded.
Meanwhile, regarding the proposed reforms themselves, Councilman Rickey Callahan expressed some of the same concerns voters have shared.
“ … I am concerned that we are going to create, yet again, another administrative apparatus that … potentially could be just cumbersome, intrusive and expensive, and in the end unproductive,” Callahan said. “And I don’t think it has to be that way.”
He also said he was not hearing the same level of demand for reform amongst his constituents as others in the room were claiming.
Shockingly, Councilman Kevin Felder told Police Chief Hall that secrecy, not sunshine, was what the aim of the CPRB should be.
“Being a secretive body with subpoena power, that should be the model that we go after,” he said.
Thomas said the process of reforms was what had kept the peace in Dallas since the shooting of Botham Jean by former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, and also lifted the curtain on how much of this process has been secretive.
“Many of my colleagues don’t even know about these conversations that took place.”
The next step in the process will be the Dallas City Council briefing on March 20.
Mayor: Michael Rawlings