Monday, December 02, 2013

Dallas PD changes policy to enable police coverups after shootings

Regular Grits readers will recall the recent episode in Dallas where a police officer shot a mentally ill suspect, claiming he feared for his life. His partner said in a written report that the man had rushed at them with a raised knife when, in fact, a neighbor's surveillance video showed the fellow had first backed away then stood calmly with his hands to his side. DPD fired the officer and suspended his partner for 15 days.

Now, though, rather than beef up penalties for officers caught testilying, Dallas Police Chief David Brown has succumbed to pressure from the police union and changed the rules so that officers can no longer be questioned about shooting incidents until 72 hours after they happen. The Dallas News story ("Dallas Police Chief David Brown quietly changes shooting investigation policy," Nov. 27) announcing the new policy opened thusly:
Any Dallas officer involved in a police shooting — whether the officer fired a weapon or witnessed the gunfire — will now have the right to remain silent for 72 hours under a new department policy.
And even before they give a statement about the shooting, the officers can watch any available video before they give a statement.

Previously an officer who witnessed a shooting typically would have been required to give a statement to police investigators within hours of the event. And the officer who fired, while not required to speak right away, typically did so. The new policy now requires the firing officer to wait at least three days before giving a complete statement to investigators.

Chief David Brown quietly made major policy change less than a month after surveillance video went public in October that showed an officer shooting a mentally ill man for no apparent reason — contrary to a witnessing officer’s account that led to a felony charge against the victim.

“It is my belief that this decision will improve the investigation of our most critical incidents,” Brown said in an emailed statement.

An attorney for the shooting victim, who survived, said the policy will give officers involved in unjustified shootings time to make excuses.

But memory experts side with the chief.

Alexis Artwohl, a nationally known behavior consultant for law enforcement agencies, said studies show officers need rest before they can accurately recount traumatic events.
One wonders, if "memory experts" say this is the better way to go, why isn't the same courtesy extended to suspects so their memory can be similarly improved? I'm sure suspects in criminal cases would be less likely to give contradictory statements if they could wait three days and review all the evidence accumulated against them with their lawyers before talking to police. What's good for the goose ...

An attorney for Bobby Bennett, the man shot in the October incident, correctly identified the real reason the police union pushed for the change and pointed out the obvious hypocrisy:
Don Tittle, one of Bennett’s attorneys, called the policy change “maddening.” Give police officers enough time, evidence and lawyers, and all their statements will sound alike and justify a shooting, he said.

Plus, he said, any other witness to a crime is asked to talk to officers at the scene, he said.

“If the goal is to seek the truth in an incident, then why would a witness to a police shooting be treated differently than a witness to any other incident?” he said. “No other witness is told, here, you have three days to get back to us. And, by the way, here is a copy of all the video of the incident so you can get your story straight.”
Grits doesn't buy for a moment the argument that the policy stems from memory science - where is the science that says people remember an incident better three days later compared to soon after it happens? A few hours later? Perhaps. Three days later? No way. By that time, one's memory begins the process of self-reinforcing a version of events that may or may not conform to what actually happened. (For more on the brain science behind that process, see here, here, and here.)

The "memory expert" quoted by the Dallas News is not a memory expert at all but a consultant who co-authored a book on how police officers can "survive" the emotional and legal aftermath of deadly shootings. Looking through her website and linked publications, one is struck by the one-side analysis. Yes, memory is less certain than was once thought - which is why we've witnessed so many DNA exonerations based on faulty eyewitness identification - but she never takes the next step to apply that observation to suspects, witnesses, or for that matter victims of police shootings. Her schtick is all about protecting the cop from negative consequences after a shooting occurs, right or wrong.

In a blog post on Friday, Dallas attorney Robert Guest made the obvious comparison to how police treat suspects: "This traumatic-event-impairs-memory theory could impact other cases as well. Take family violence cases, if we can’t trust officers memory of traumatic events how we can trust those who got in a fight with their spouse?" Guest sums up what's going on in the Bennett episode from a non-cop's perspective: "If you work in criminal justice long enough you see situations in which rules are broken often. Defendants break rules and face the unbridled wrath of the criminal justice system (which seeks to take their money, time, and sometimes freedom). But what happens when the Government breaks rules? More often than not, the government changes the rules so that they don’t get caught again." That's precisely what Chief Brown did here.

This shooting and the coverup that followed by the shooter's partner was an embarrassment for the Dallas Police Department, but not nearly as embarrassing as this shameless change in departmental policy. Just pathetic.

MORE: From Defending People and Simple Justice.


ErikBlaine said...

Here's another one for you:

Unknown said...

Both officers should not only be fired but CHARGED~

rodsmith said...

So should the chief of police. He's now an unindighted felon. for the felony's of witness tampering and conspiracy to witness tamper.

Never mind the capital crime of CRIMINIAL STUPIDITY!

of course is anyone surprised. This is the same two-faced bullshit they pull over public recording. It's perfectly legal for them to do it to US. But they squeal like the PIGS they are when we do it to them. Even when the courts and the United States Attorney General says it is legal!

Anonymous said...

Dallas is just like Dodge City.

Anonymous said...

And it isn't about to end here. Police all over the entire country are becoming bolder by the day, just daring citizens to stand up to them. I'm beginning to believe they are trying to provoke the citizenry into a war so the government can declare Martial Law.

Surely they realize that America is no longer the home of the brave but instead the home of the spineless. Bravery died with Timothy McVeigh.

Anonymous said...

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JJ said...

Perhaps his timing is off (Chief Brown), but other major agencies have had this policy in place for decades. DPS is one.

The Homeless Cowboy said...

I have known the Dallas police to be unafraid to gun down citizens since the late 60's. When Chief Brown took over, It seemed as if he was a breath of clean air to the dept. I was impressed that he seemed to hold his officers to a standard that was fair. This new policy seems out of character for him.If an officer is given this leeway, I feel that all citizens should be given the same courtesy. Somehow I don't see the Dallas Police wanting to wait 72 hours before interrogating suspects, do you? It is important that investigators get statements from participants and witnesses as soon as possible, while memories are clear and fresh, not 3 days down the road when they have had time to watch videos of the incident and consult attorneys. I cannot justify this in my mind. So if I am questioned by a police officer and they ask me questions, should I say, "Officer I will answer your questions in 3 days"? In Dallas that alone could get you beaten and jailed. I feel it is very important for both parties to have an even field to play on. If an officer stops a person for speeding and asks for ID and auto registration and insurance, the citizen should be able to to view the officers dash cam video and have 72 hours to rest before forking over their ID, or having to sign the ticket even if it is simply an acknowledgment. Is that nit picky? Yes, but this new policy is not fair to the public and should not be allowed by law. OH and 6:49 Really???? Tim Mc Veigh?? Have you lost your rabbit ass mind?

jcfromnj said...

Folks, a little cop logic: Not getting caught is the same as telling the truth...

How can I really prove that I'm not a robot ?

Anonymous said...

In falfurrias Tx A week ago around 5 people died in a chase .they were illegal immigrants so no one cared. Praised the cop for doing his job. Sad im disgusted by our cities reaction . Like nothing im am very sad about this. Alot people side with these cops why because cops never lie ya right..

Unknown said...

Remember this in a few years when the Police ask for more tax payer money because the Dallas Police Pension fund is so grossly underfunded.

Anonymous said...

What I believe all of you are missing is the fact that police officers usually have a lot of dirt on their colleagues and even district attorneys, and this dirt could possibly bring down an entire department and maybe even a district attorney or two. You can usually tell if an officer has a bag of dirt because they can and do get away with murder. Here in Harris County there are still a few oldtimers who could bring down not just the entire HPD organization but their union and about three former district attorneys. A smart rookie will begin gathering dirt his first year on the job. It can come in handy later if he's ever in trouble.

Anonymous said...

Ok, Brownie has to go. The march on city hall protesting his imeadiate termination and conspiracy charges to follow is set for Friday. Just kidding, we all will be working on Friday and hoping we don't get shot out of frame or, focus. Yes, he had everyone fooled but the fools and no one would listen to them. And he ain't going nowhere.

The weird part is that everyone was so sick and tired of old white red necks running the PD & Courthouse (corruption) we all accepted and embrassed Brown & Watkins as true criminal justice system reformers. And that all went out the window the moment he was jumped in the Union gang. As for Watkins, he's playing foot loose with the rules / ethics and just about lost his rabbit ass mind a couple of times.

The bad part is that they both seem to be unraveling at the same time. Which equals to them being replaced with old white red necks as history repeats itself.

Anonymous said...

While I acknowledge the need for this blog, and also greatly appreciate the info it provides, IMO, the scope/power at you're fingertips to truly affect real change is yet to be realized.
The only answer for humanity at this critical time in history, is the re-educating of the public on Natural, Common, Constitutional, and Maritime Admiralty Law, and how to remove themselves from this game of corporate fiction and lies that enslaves us.
C'mon Grits....everyone can recognize the ever increasing insanity, but when they keep going to the system's sandbox to play, by the system's rules because they are unaware other options even exist...nothing is going to change! People need to know their reality has been the greatest LIE in the history of mankind, that they actually CAN take their power back, and how to go about it! To omit this part of the equation, THE MOST IMPORTANT PART, is a DISservice. Please....the time is now!

Anonymous said...

waiting before speaking is always a good policy but this should not only apply to policemen.. it should apply to everyone caught in this situation... and with the option to continue invoking the 5th amendment. Add to that another addendum that strictly says that "not speaking" i.e., remaining silent when questioned does not imply guilt.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@ 2:43, who wants me to explain to readers "how to remove themselves from this game of corporate fiction and lies that enslaves us"

Uh ... exactly HOW do we do that? Maybe we can hold a protest? Or a vigil? Or "occupy" something? Bleh!

IMO it's a "DISservice" to suggest folks forsake "the system's sandbox" and man the barricades. Instead, they should quit navel gazing, hop in the sandbox and kick some dirt around, or better, build something.

Anonymous said...

Grits, regarding protesting and colors.

At first, everyone thought that two white cops shot a black man due to the grainy footage backed up with Breaking News showing a black man sitting on his couch next to white woman thought to have had the security cams.

Protest's if not full blown riots making Rodeny King look like childs playwere minutes from jumping off. BUT, when they finally reported that the victim was white, the protest turned in to laughter.

One statemnt that stands out from all - it's one less crazy-ass wood to worry about.

As for the Woods', too busy to protest and not concerned one bit unless it directly involves them.

This is what you get when humans allow colors to affect their choices. When people divide themselves it's very easy to conqure. If anyone tries to kick sand they'll be branded as hulligans and wrote off.

Anonymous said...

Dallas County just became the most corrupt county in the state and taking Harris County's title is not going to sit well.

Did anyone from the so-called Black community weigh in? Sharpton, the Xs', Obama? Nope.

How about the White community? Nope.

How about the Mexican community? Nope.

Chinees, Indians, Asians? Nope.

Anonymous said...

Just Remember if you film a cop doing something stupid, wait 3 days before showing it to the Media. That way the officer has time to get his story right, and then we can see the video that proves he is lying to cover his ass.

Broden Mickelsen said...

This is quite alarming. I'm surprised the Chief of Police would do that. However, if we want it to change, we as a society, need to take action, which includes calling the Mayor, local and national news media.

joebanana said...

Police have a union to protect them from the law, where's the peoples union to protect us from the police?