Dallas taxpayers concerned about police accountability are being led down a rabbit hole that will cost them around $1 million.
A coalition of leftist groups, supported by the chief of police and members of Dallas’ Citizens Police Review Board, have put together a proposal to address issues with the ineffective board—but their ideas only cost a lot of money and do nothing to provide real police accountability.
At a packed January 17 townhall, CPRB member Jesuorobo Enobakhare Jr, who led the meeting, outlined the current problems with the board.
“None of our oversight goals have been accomplished,” he said. “We don’t have a budget. It’s zero. And we don’t have a staff.”
Indeed, the board is currently powerless: they don’t have access to the files of the Dallas Police Department, nor are they able to give policy recommendations to anyone.
“We need staff so that we can get these complaints, get the data, and analyze it,” Enobakhare continued.
Enter the leftist coalition, who claims to have solutions. They’ve proposed giving the board more power and a lot of taxpayer funding.
Groups including Accion America, Local Progress, the ACLU of Texas, and the Texas Organizing Project have been meeting since 2016 with Dallas Chief of Police Renee Hall and members of the CPRB to create police accountability reforms. The groups have traditionally supported anti-taxpayer positions such as the City of Austin’s controversial paid sick leave mandate.
When asked why the CPRB decided to work with this coalition, Enobakhare said the board did not schedule any of the meetings—the organizations invited the CPRB.
So what exactly are these groups proposing? Their ideas include giving the CPRB the ability to issue subpoenas, review all complaints made to them, conduct independent investigations, and make recommendations for new police policies.
The coalition also proposed giving the board approximately $1 million in taxpayer funding to hire “professional staff.”
However, despite those measures, Enobakhare said ultimately the chief of police would still have the power to decide whether or not to act on the board’s recommendations.
At the January 17 townhall, attendees had a variety of responses to these ideas.
One elderly constituent immediately questioned the massive cost.
“Who’s going to pay your review board once you get it? The taxpayers?” She asked. “We’re going to have to pay for it. It’s going to come out the citizens pocket. I’d rather see that go to the policemen. They’re short of help. If it was left up to me, you’d never make it.”
Another audience member at the townhall questioned the influence of the coalition.
“Most of these people [in this room] are people from organizations with different groups; they have a different outlook,” he said. “The people in this neighborhood have a problem with the police.”
Others had doubts about whether the coalition’s proposal would have any real effect.
“I’m not clear how this will avoid any lawsuits,” said one woman. Dallas taxpayers have paid out $11 million over the past few years in lawsuits against police.
Another audience member pointed out that the citizen board was often intimidated by other city officials.
“I was on the police review board many years ago, back in the late 80’s when we established it,” said another attendee to Enobakhare. “The three of us had to resign because it was ineffective. When you had a high-profile case come up, you made a recommendation and then the city attorney or city manager would come in and say, ‘As an arm of the city, you are now a city representative and you will vote the way we tell you to vote.’”
The man said these new proposals wouldn’t stop that.
“I don’t see anything here that really tells me that either you’re going to be able to do something or that the police association would allow you to do anything,” he said.
These citizen review boards have long been ineffective in the city. Dallas has tried them at least three times, dating back to the 80s, but each time they’ve tried restructuring them the complaints and problems are always the same. Dallas isn’t alone with this problem, as ineffective boards are quite common.
This begs the question, are police review boards themselves even the answer for police accountability?
In an article back in 2017,Tim Lynch, director of the Cato Institute’s Project on Criminal Justice, wrote that civilian boards are often not what they seem.
“The idea of civilian review always sounds appealing because it has this connotation of democratic governance,” said Lynch. “But when you look into the way it actually works, it can be ineffective as far as serious accountability for police departments.”
Even worse, many times these boards serve no other purpose than to be smoke and mirrors to distract citizens from where the problem truly lies—the mayor and the city council.
Indeed, the city council are the ones that truly have the power to hold the police accountable.
For example, the Dallas CPRB may not have access to police files, but the Dallas City Council does and can compel the department to present them. The council also has the power to hire a team for the CPRB, to fire the chief of police, and to create and enforce actual policy changes, not just recommendations, to the police department.
Meanwhile, the leftist coalition is trying to spend more taxpayer money on ineffective ideas, when the real problem lies at city hall.
There will be a hearing on the coalition’s proposed reforms on February 11 at 11 AM at the Public Safety Criminal Justice Committee. The Dallas City Council will also hold their own hearing and vote sometime over the next two months whether or not to pursue these reforms. Voters can contact members of city council to express their views.
Mayor: Michael Rawlings
Mayor Pro Tem/District 3 Councilman: Casey Thomas II
Deputy Mayor Pro-Tem/District 2 Councilman: Adam Medrano
District 1 Councilman: Scott Griggs
District 4 Councilwoman: Carolyn King Arnold
District 5 Councilman: Rickey D. Callahan
District 6 Councilman: Omar Narvaez
District 7 Councilman: Kevin Felder
District 8 Councilman: Tennell Atkins
District 9 Councilman: Mark Clayton
District 10 Councilman: B. Adam McGough
District 11 Councilman: Lee Kleinman
District 12 Councilman: Sandy Greyson
District 13 Councilwoman: Jennifer S. Gates
District 14 Councilman: Philip T. Kingston