More than unprofessional, this sort of policing is disgusting to a reasonable person and embarrassing to an entire city, if not worse.The News opined that the "courageous officer whose note revealed the troubling behavior also deserves Dallas' thanks," and I wholeheartedly agree. But one notices that nameless officer was starkly in the minority: Many more cops participated in the beating and the cover-up than leapt to report it (investigators reviewed seven dash-cams from the scene), and the only one willing to say something did so anonymously, obviously fearing retaliation from his co-workers.
But Police Chief David Brown didn't circle the wagons behind the stereotypical blue wall of silence. He acted on an anonymous note about the officers' misbehavior and then delivered an unmistakable message that his officers can't act beyond what is reasonable and necessary to make a lawful arrest. And that especially includes an angry, frustrated officer apparently plotting to rough up a suspect or police lying in official reports about the incident.
This newspaper is saddened that these officers betrayed public trust, but heartened that Brown acted to restore it in such a forthright manner. He methodically reviewed the videos and pressed for a criminal investigation. He fired one officer and asked the FBI to investigate whether civil rights had been violated. He calmly urged community restraint and even visited the home church of the motorcyclist's family to assure citizens that justice would be vigorously pursued.
The Chief partially blamed the problem on inexperienced officers working by themselves: "All of the officers implicated in the arrest have been on the force for less than three years. The city has hired nearly 1,200 police officers in recent years and Brown has previously acknowledged concerns about a patrol division full of young and inexperienced cops, including the officers doing the training," reported the News. Brown said he wants to "review ... our pairing of our young officers with each other, the experience levels of our field training officers and our current transfer system."
Notably, even officers not involved in the beating violated departmental policy: "A sergeant ordered the officers not to chase, in accordance with the department's strict chase policy. But they chased anyway, weaving through residential streets and through stop signs." One wonders whether officers violating the department's chase policy will also face punishment?
Brown deserves commendation, but most of the lessons to be learned here are troubling: Apparently Dallas police feel free to ignore their supervisors and departmental policy, most of them cover up for one another's misconduct, even when it's egregious, and the few officers willing to do the right thing fear retaliation from their peers. Chief Brown should be lauded for taking a bold first step toward holding officers accountable, but I'd be happier still if it weren't so painfully obvious that most Dallas cops - at least judging from the sample involved in this episode - don't appear to share the chief's view that this kind of behavior is unacceptable.
MORE: These weren't the only bad cops fired in Dallas recently. Chief "Brown announced that the department will begin randomly reviewing dash-cam video from patrol cars and that he is considering enhanced ethics training for about 1,400 recently hired officers."