December 4, 2013
Officers of the Dallas Police Department are now required to remain silent for three days after they witness or are involved in shootings under a contentious policy change quietly implemented last October by the Dallas Police Chief.
Dallas Police squad car at 50th anniversary of JFK death.
“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,” the Dallas Morning Newsreported late last month.
“And even before they give a statement about the shooting, the officers can watch any available video,” the paper added.
The rule change arrived on the heels of an October 11 incident in which a Dallas police officer fired on a mentally ill man, Bobby Gerald Bennett, absent of any provocation, then lied about it.
In that incident, which was captured by a neighbor’s front porch surveillance camera, the officer reported he fired on Bennett because he had charged the officer aggressively with a knife. The neighbor’s footage embarrassingly showed otherwise.
Dallas Police Chief David Brown claims the change in policy, which previously saw officers make statements within hours of shooting incidents, is about “improving the investigation.”
“It is my belief that this decision will improve the investigation of our most critical incidents,” Brown professed in a statement to the Dallas Morning News.
Chief Brown points to “fairly conclusive” studies which indicate officers are too emotionally affected following traumatic incidents to be able to recall an accurate version of events.
At an October news conference, Brown claimed he too had experienced memory loss after a shooting. “It wasn’t until two or three days later to where I remembered it accurately.”
However, Don Tittle, one of the attorneys representing Bobby Bennett, says it’s nothing more than a thinly-viewed measure allowing cops time to get their stories straight.
“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?” Tittle reportedly asked. “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.”
Constitutional and military law expert Jonathan Turley agrees.
“What is incredible about this story is that the public interest demands the opposite of the rule,” writes Turley, who says the 72-hour rule may help officers “learn whether there are videotapes or witnesses that might contradict them.”
“Rather than give an contemporaneous account at the scene, they will now be able to craft their answers after confirming whether they can be contradicted. That should solve any further controversies,” Turley speculates.
“The only thing more astonishing than this transparent policy is that fact that Brown has not been immediately fired for suggesting it.”
Do you think the policy will actually “improve investigations,” as the police chief purports, or does it merely serve to provide officers ample time to fabricate believable lies?