Sunday, June 27, 2010

The politicization of grief at Dallas PD

I've avoided before now discussing a terrible incident in Dallas which occurred last week, where the son of Dallas' brand-spanking new police chief, David Brown, shot and killed two people including a Lancaster police officer following what's being described as a "psychotic breakdown." Other officers then killed Brown, Jr.. When all was done, three fathers died that Father's Day - a tragedy of unspeakable proportions for all involved.

The situation was complicated by the fact that Lancaster police had visited the apartment earlier in response to reported domestic violence and failed to arrest Brown's son, David Jr., who they found threatening his children with a belt for not reading their Bibles. As James Ragland wrote: "The tragedy has thrust the men and women in blue in highly unusual, if not uncharted, territory – mourning the loss of a fallen colleague; sympathizing with the respected and accomplished father of the killer; grieving the death of another innocent victim and father, Jeremy McMillian." 

I normally don't write about such critical incidents until more information has come out (and the Dallas News Crime Blog is the place to go for breaking details). Judging whether Brown, Jr. should have been arrested earlier, whether he would have been if his father weren't police chief, are questions that require more information than is now available. My heart goes out to everyone involved including Chief Brown, who now finds himself at the center of an almost Shakespearean tragedy, full of anguish and irony. Bob Ray Sanders had an excellent column on the situation.

Even before mourners were finished burying their dead, the calls for Brown's resignation began. Reporter Scott Goldstein first posed the question, and the comment sections of Dallas News stories are increasingly filled with self-identified police officers demanding his resignation.

The police unions smell blood in the water and their leaders are using the situation to undermine the chief's authority. Brown's union critics found their first opportunity to use the situation against the chief after his son's funeral, when a deputy chief impromptu assigned traffic cops to escort the son's funeral procession. Everywhere in response are outraged declarations that police were assigned to accompany a "copkiller" on the way to the grave.

Upon reading these complaints, I immediately wondered to myself if Dallas' most famous copkiller - Lee Harvey Oswald, who murdered Officer J.D. Tippit that fateful day in addition to President Kennedy back in November 1963 - received a police escort? A quick search discovered this video on YouTube of Oswald's funeral, where, sure enough, the first image is of a Dallas Fort Worth police officer walking in front of Oswald's casket on the way to the hearse. There's even a shot of a uniformed officer at the graveside bowing his head as the casket was lowered into the ground.

If Lee Harvey Oswald, murderer of both a US President and a Dallas police officer, received a police escort at his funeral - with an officer leading the casket to the hearse, no less - I don't see a serious beef with what happened here. This is a disingenuous complaint and an opportunistic excuse to undermine the new chief. 

Certainly Brown needn't resign because of any personal culpability. His son was mentally ill and it doesn't matter if you're homeless or a police chief's son, our society has few methods to treat serious mental illness outside the justice system - a situation that IMO greatly contributes to these types of tragedies. It's possible Lancaster police didn't arrest Brown, Jr. that day because he was the chief's son, but it wasn't because Brown intervened - they phoned and left a message saying they'd been at the apartment and his son was "okay," but by all reports Brown never communicated with them about it.

Everyone involved in this tragedy deserves a chance to grieve without facing mean-spirited attacks, including the Chief and his family. There's little left to investigate and nobody left to blame. All that remains is an opportunity to emerge with renewed sympathy for one another.

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amen.

Anonymous said...

Since when did DPD wear white uniforms? Never.... You may need to re-check your facts.

Anonymous said...

That's not Dallas PD. Good grief. The burial wasn't even in Dallas. Great fact checking, there. Guess that blows your whole article's point, eh?

CharityLee said...

My heart goes out to all of them. This is just another sad story that proves the point there are no guarantees in this life. Just because he is the Chief of Police, he is not exempt from personal tragedy nor are his family member's exempt from mental illness. Personally, I imagine I know how he feels. When my son killed his sister it was act no one ever felt possible. Even though it is already happening, anyone, at this point, who turns the personal tragedies of all these families into a political maneuver, is a pig.

You said it all well Grits.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Does it really, 6:35? It was a police escort, even if it wasn't Dallas PD.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, authority figures in LE are often held accountable for the actions of their family members, immediate or otherwise. If there was any wrong-doing or an unlawful use of authority by Chief Brown, then he should go. If he is simply a hapless victim of the actions of his son, then let us leave it at that. My condolences to the Browns and the LE family of Lancaster.

Anonymous said...

Grits, you say that David Brown Jr was mentally ill? Well that contradicts everything that Lancaster PD has said about the case..This whole situation would have been avoided if Lancaster PD would have known what to do...APOWW

Stephen K said...

To ask the Police Chief to resign over this is a request from a completely brain dead faction. IMO tje escort was a matter of public safety. Whos to say in todays society some nut job didnt think of attacking the funeral procession and the escort was a deterremt? All of this is a sad commentary on what we have done to our society. It simply makes me wonder were do we go from here?????

The Team said...

Hey Grits, first and foremost, we offer our deepest sympathy to the families and loved ones of the victims of this tragedy. May they rest in peace.

As for Police Unions / Associations, we had the opportunity to learn a great deal about their un-bridled power over the last year or two via Injustice Everywhere. In lieu of engaging their members here that take the form of an Anon, we would like pose a question to the identifiable GFB readers.

What in the hell is police chief David Brown guilty of that merits intruding into his time of morning with calls for his resignation? Guilt by association and family ties just doesn’t cut it. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Those uniforms look like the typical PRIVATE motorcycle funeral procession uniforms to me. Brown Jr had those, too. There was no reason to call in the police motorcycle unit. It is not done, ever. What you see escorting the everyday funeral processions on the street are all private funeral procession employees. They are not police, they try to look like police in order to gain compliance from motorists.

Anonymous said...

Once again, Grits pontificates and hyperventilates over something without adequate knowledge of the subject matter:

"The reason for the visceral reaction is that escorts historically have been reserved for officers who die in the line of duty, active duty or retired officers and other dignitaries. In other words, it's for someone who dies under honorable circumstances. That's why they see it is as such an unpardonable sin that a cop-killer would receive what they consider a high honor.

Private funeral processions come down Dallas' busy highways every day and do not receive escorts from the motorcycle unit when they encounter traffic snarls, said Vincent Aurentz, who retired in September after serving as a motorcycle unit sergeant for 17 years.

He said escorts involving motorcycle officers are simply not done on a last-minute basis.
"They're supposed to look at the route," Aurentz said. "The troops are supposed to look at the route. They're supposed to go out and ride it."

In fact, one of the controversies surrounding the February 2008 death of Senior Cpl. Victor Lozada, who died while escorting then-presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton's motorcade, was that the motorcycle unit officer did not ride the route before the conducting the escort. Lozada lost his life when he lost control on a curve on the Houston Street viaduct.

As a result of Lozada's death, it became mandatory that supervisors ensure that all motorcycle officers travel the route prior to conducting an escort. In fact, the unit has extensive written operating procedures that prescribe how such funeral escorts are to be conducted.
"

College Cop said...

It wasn't Dallas PD it was Fort Worth PD with oswald, along with the secret service and FBI. It was a totally different thing,47 years ago.

(here is a better video, and a link from someone who was there)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFP9a8LeuvA

http://lhhs65.com/wayback4.htm

TODAY it is highly inapropriate to use police officers and vehicles that way , the Dallas Officers and others are right to be ticked at such a thing.

Also, go back and read some of what DMN is putting out now. No one, not even the unions are calling for BROWN's outster, they do want Bernal gone.

Rev.charlestulia said...

6:28 anon -- in my part of the country--and it is country--police escorts are usually sheriff depts.

R. Shackleford said...

I don't care for le culture as a rule, and police unions are up there with the Chi-town mob in my book, but for christ's sake leave this poor guy alone. He lost a son in the most horrible (to a cop) way possible, who gives a fuck if he violated one of your cultish little rituals? How 'bout you practice what you so nauseatingly preach, and support your 'brother' during this stark and deeply terrible time? Using this tragedy for political gain is just so devoid of human decency that you guys need to rethink what kind of people you really are. There's nothing good about what you're doing here.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

College Cop, in what way was it "a totally different thing, 47 years ago"? What's changed? Were their values and attitudes toward human life so different from ours, and if so why are today's superior? I don't think it's different at all except that 47 years ago the tragedy was so great nobody had the gall to attempt to use the situation for their own mean political purposes. That hasn't been true in this episode.

As for the unions changing their tunes, at the time I wrote this police officers were planning a protest for this morning (which I considered in completely poor taste) that thankfully fizzled when somebody came to their senses. But the comment sections of the Dallas News stories contain quite a few self-identified police officers calling for Brown's resignation. And those expressing "outrage" at the funeral procession are just throwing gasoline on the fire.

Anonymous said...

I agree, it is a tragedy and all deserve the time to grieve.
I also understand it's a tragedy when a cop is killed in the line of duty, but there seems to be a vigilante, holier than thou, spirit here. Didn't I just read about some cops who brutally beat up a suspect? This is not so unusual from what I gather.

Anonymous said...

Cops are a sour lot who are always bitching about something. Granted, they have a decent beef here. This is typical of Dallas though.

College Cop said...

"College Cop, in what way was it "a totally different thing, 47 years ago"? What's changed? Were their values and attitudes toward human life so different from ours, and if so why are today's superior? I don't think it's different at all except that 47 years ago the tragedy was so great nobody had the gall to attempt to use the situation for their own mean political purposes. That hasn't been true in this episode."

It's not just LE that changed in 47 years, the whole society has.

Check the links I provided. They had to round up last minute volunteers (all reporters) to be pall bearers for Oswald. They had trouble finding a priest who would officiate, the FBI was only there because they immediately sequestered his wife after the funeral.

Nowadays even the most vicious killers have better funerals than that.

All of which is moot, lots of things change in a half century. Today it is just plain wrong to use cops (and taxpayers money) that way. Today we resever such treatment to people who give to society rather than unjustly take.

Brown Jr. had a private escort service and that was enough. The Deputy Chief who ordered this disgrace said in a Dallas News article that he did it to show support for Chief Brown (after all the mumbo jumbo about "public safety").

College Cop said...

Oh, found Bernal's direct quote from the DMN article:

"I did it out of respect for my chief and for a family who had lost somebody."

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"Mumbo jumbo," College Cop? Bernal named several specific circumstances that arose - a larger than expected group of vehicles, rain, an accident in their path. If this was any other cop in any other circumstance you'd be defending them to the hilt, grasping at any public safety straw was offered to justify whatever they did. It was a judgment call that was his, not yours, to make. Let it go. Nobody's intentionally disrespecting the dead officer and no good can come from carping over things that cannot be changed.

As for 47 years ago, you're suggesting distinctions without a difference. Why is there no lingering animosity by DPD for Fort Worth police escorting Oswald's funeral? These complaints IMO are pure opportunism of a particularly low-class sort.

Anonymous said...

Scott Hensen...You are something special, your writing, is to say the least, The most an-ti police and bullcrap i've ever read. There are 3500 hard working DPD OFFICERS, and you take the heart right out of them. The chief's son killed a POLICE OFFICER. Get a clue, this is not something you politicize. It's something NORMAL human would abhor.. We know which side of fence your on. The side where neighbor has a big ol dog and shits right where you put your foot. You are garbage.....

College Cop said...

Yea they (Bernal and Cato) made judgement calls, it was the wrong call. In the past I've worked for escort companies (usualy security companies that make deals with funeral homes) and have done escorts myself. When 2 private escorts aren't enough, the funeral director with the procession will pull it over and call for more escorts. NEVER did any funeral director call the cops.

"If this was any other cop in any other circumstance you'd be defending them to the hilt, grasping at any public safety straw was offered to justify whatever they did."

I've posted her a handful of times , how is it you think you know me so well? I think you might have me confused for someone else sir.

Each "judgement call" should be judged on it's own merits. Bernal and Cato made a terribly bad one by pulling escorts AWAY from Ofc. Shaws funeral to go help with the procession of the man who killed him AND an innocent citizen. Had the deceased not been the son of a Chief, that would have never happened.

If Bernal and Cato had any sense of honor, they would resign. I've got nothing against Dallas PD or these men personally (I'm a fan of Chief Brown also), but their (Cato and Bernal's) actions were simply dishonorable. A man died serving his community and another innocent father died that day too, those are the ones who get the public escort, not their murderer.

Anonymous said...

FAN OF BROWNS, THE THE SAME ONE WHO HAD HIMSELF DESIGNATED A "DIGNITARY" AND HAD HIS ON ESCORT , EVEN THOUGHT HE WAS TOLD NOT TO BY CITY ADMINISTRATOR.. HE THINKS OF HIMSELF AS ABOVE ALL

popo the 5-oh said...

Grits -

The only problem with the whole "There was an accident" argument, is that nobody can find an accident call on that stretch of road during the hours of the escort. You can get a hold of the DPD via open records request and verify that information yourself.

There are accidents on 75 everyday, and as an officer that responds to those calls, let me re-assure you that if there were an accident, there would be numerous calls to 911 so that officers could be dispatched to the location in order for us to go take care of it.

The "accident" was just a lame excuse used by an extremely arrogant man (Bernal) to cover his butt. As for Cato, why did it take him 3 days to come out and take responsibility for actually being the person that gave Bernal the go ahead to make the call?

If he were truly a man of honor, he would have taken responsibility on Friday and not let a subordinate take the heat for a few days while he enjoyed his weekend.

Anonymous said...

Mentally ill my A$$. Chief Brown's son was on PCP. Thas why he got buck naked in the swiming pool and was acting crazy

Anonymous said...

The fact of the matter is, escorts are prohibited except for dignitaries, officers killed in the line of duty, etc... The average person cannot get police assistance during a funeral procession in Dallas. Now, a murderer has been given that honor because the family and DPD chiefs didn't want to wait in traffic.
There shouldn't have even been a procession to begin with. The family should have been ashamed of their son and had a private funeral, if anything at all. There is a funeral home near where he was buried, and the whole thing should have been for immediate family only.
The fact that so many chiefs attended, when they should have been at the funeral of Senior Corporal Adamson, is unforgivable.

Anonymous said...

Can we just call bullshit bullshit and leave it alone? I grew up in a police family, and I understand why officers want to reserve this parade of police cars as one special thing reserved to them. The issue here has nothing to do with a citizen being escorted by the police- in fact, I've seen police do countless escorts for family of active police officers. Those who try to claim that they have never known of a police escort for the son or daughter of an current police officer are either stupid or lying. The issue is that a man went over the edge, took two other good people with him, and officers feel that the escort in someway honored him instead of honoring his father.

I've seen police escorts, and no, not the private escorts but actual on duty marked police escorts, for everything from large pipes to buildings to parades. I've seen them used to escort celebrities that bash and hate police, and I've seen them used to escort officers who died on duty under far less than admirable circumstances. The fact is, the police department is really not meant to be a PR machine. In many of these situations, they were doing their job-- keeping the roadways safe, keeping them moving, and preventing violence or disturbance of the peace.

To be honest, I'm sick of this story. I don't know if I agree with the deputy chief's decision or reasoning, but I can see why he did it, and it is not a reason to be fired. I think we will continue to hear some demands for resignations of both men, but I know those for the chief's head are diminishing, as they should, and I hope to police unions stop being the bunch of spoiled children they have become and get on to doing their jobs-- taking care of officers and helping watch their backs.

Anything else is pointless, it's political, and it's likely spite.

Anonymous said...

There should not even have been a procession? The family should have been ashamed of their son?

Spoken like someone never fit to parent a child. I don't care what a child does, it does not take away the rights of his parents to mourn his death, or the rights of their friends, colleagues, and associates to share in their grief and offer support. Get a clue.

As for the "PCP" allegation against the original assertions that Brown had a mental illness, I'd have to see an investigation on that score. Seems to me people love to start rumors of drugs to take away any possible sympathy that could be associated with mental illness.

Anonymous said...

Well, he was agitated, sweaty like a pig, talking about Jesus and the bible. Every police that had deal with people on PCP know this are the symptoms of somebody usin marijuana along with PCP and he loved that weed

Anonymous said...

Mayby the Lancaster PD is such a podunk town they dont have any drug problems.

Anonymous said...

In Dallas on a domestic disturbance call someone is required to go to jail. This is a policy I heard recited to a nice young white man down the street by a black Dallas popo after his girlfriend beat him up. By the time this popo actually showed up they had just finished with makeup sex, and all was well. None the less the guy volunteered to go to jail and I went and dealt with the morons to get him out.Cops cover for cops, had the Lancaster Police Department done their job, forget the line of political crap they are giving to cover the blue vial, this incident would have never happened. The LPD who responded to the scene that Fathers Day morning are the most responsible for the murder of their fellow Lancaster Police officer, a civilian, and a mentally ill man with an obvious drug problem who happens to be the Dallas Police Chief’s son. These officers, playing their little cover up for a fellow cop game robbed children of their dads on Father’s Day. Who knows what the effects of this will be on these kids because of those popo’s failure to do their job without favoritism.All that the police unions are doing with their little outrage bs is deflecting the responsibility to their nemesis whose only crime was an act of kindness to his Chief. This little show by the popo unions is nothing more than a cover for the LPD whose FAILURE to do their jobs cost the lives of 3 people. It’s sad because it appears that Lancaster lost a good man. You People in the DPD unions are just wrong.

Anonymous said...

"Well, he was agitated, sweaty like a pig, talking about Jesus and the bible. Every police that had deal with people on PCP know this are the symptoms of somebody usin marijuana along with PCP and he loved that weed"

Any police who try to make a diagnosis in this way need to pull their head out of their ass and get some mental health training, because a lot of the people they deal with will have mental health problems, and many of them exhibit these exact signs. By the way, a single marijuana issue 7 years ago does not support any finding that he "loved that weed." That is a typical example of how some fail to view the current situation because they can't get out of the past.

Anonymous said...

Just came in the news today. This POS was a dope head and had PCP with marijuana in his system. Just like I said.

Anonymous said...

04:56 poster, they like the mentailly ill argument better. Pointing out the truth just isn't liberal enough these days. Next we'll hear some fantasy about Junior being forced to ingest PCP by his abusive girlfriend.

R. Shackleford said...

Nobody said the guy was great. They just said using it for political gain was despicable. You two dumbasses.

Anonymous said...

Fox 4 News just reported alcohol, PCP, and Marijuana in juniors system. The cop kid having his social problems glossed over to ovoid criminal prosecution. Not like we haven’t seen that before. LPD is the blame for those deaths, no doubt they should have done their job. To bad he was a cops kids and was black. He would have went to jail in that racist town. That officer would still be alive and so would the other two victims of LPD.

Anonymous said...

6:44 that could happin. I think his girlfriend is white.

Pirate Rothbard said...

Such a joke to blame LPD for this. They couldn't know he was going to kill.