Several members of the Dallas City Council say they're not satisfied with the Dallas Police Department's after-action report on protests this spring in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall and other top DPD officials briefed the Dallas City Council's Public Safety Committee on their 85-page report Tuesday afternoon.
"I know that this after-action report took time," Chief Hall said. "However, the length of an after-action report on average is 12 to 18 months."
The report covers a four-day period from Friday, May 29th to Monday, June 1st. Friday night's protests degenerated into looting and vandalism affecting several businesses in downtown, Deep Ellum and other areas. A protest on Monday night ended with police detaining hundreds of people on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. Protesters and elected officials have criticized DPD's actions during that event on Monday, June 1st.
The report did acknowledge a breakdown in communications during the Friday night looting and noted that officers sometimes received contradictory instructions.
However, DPD officials on Tuesday defended their decision to block the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge on Monday, June 1st. They also stood by their decision to detain protesters during that incident. "As they approached the west-bound ramp to Woodall Rodgers which would take them over the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, there was a brief moment where they went slightly past, paused, and then turned to up the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge," said DPD Major Jim Lewis. "It is extremely important to note that ramp was blocked. It was blocked by multiple police vehicles with officers standing outside the vehicles on loud hailers telling participants that they would be arrested if they went on the freeway."
When the crowd moved onto the bridge, Major Lewis said, police took action to block the bridge from additional traffic.
"Officers were sent to the west side of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in order to shut down traffic and do two things: number one, ensure that motor vehicles would not become a danger to protesters or that they could be in danger themselves...and to stop protesters in order to move them off of the freeway in the safest way possible," he said.
Several members of the Public Safety Committee had a list of complaints about the report, ranging from the time it took to complete to the data included in the 85-page document.
"It is clear to me that we did have, indeed, a failure of leadership," said Council Member Adam McGough. "At the source of many of our issues is trust. The communication that has taken place throughout the protest, after the protests and in the over two months since the events took place have served to further erode trust instead of building the trust we so desperately need. There are many things I was looking for in this report and I am left with many un-met expectations. From the very first incident I have questioned the planning, strategies, coordination and communication."
Council Member Adam Bazaldua blasted the report as one-sided, saying DPD had put too much emphasis on the actions of protesters while failing to admit the department's own failures.
"The report, to me, was underwhelming. It highlighted a lot of threats made against police and lacked a lot of detail on instances of force that was used against the public," he said. "I think this report is also too little, too late. It seems reactionary and also biased because of the lack of details."
Bazaldua wanted more information about incidents where police used force to deal with protesters.
"We need to hear and see what occurred over the weekend, and it is not been clearly painted as a picture in this report," he said. "This report is something that paints a very biased picture to the public that is a narrative that is absolutely disingenuous and not fair."
Chief Hall noted that those use-of-force incidents were still being investigated according to departmental policies, and that some of the incidents in question had only recently come to light through media accounts. The overall report, she said, was generated to review department policies and highlight areas for improvement.
"This is an unprecedented event in the City of Dallas. There are some things that we recognize we could have done differently. There has been general orders that have been addressed to ensure that moving forward our actions are different," Chief Hall said. "Transparency breeds corrective behavior, so we are being transparent with the fact that we don't do everything right."
The report notes several policies have been changed or will be changed at the department to address some of the concerns that have been raised. A new general order will restrict the use of pepper-balls as a crowd control measure, along with the use of foam bullets described as "less lethal" rounds. The department is also prohibiting the use of tear gas, known as C.S. gas, to direct crowd movements.