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Councilwoman Says Dallas Should ‘Wean People off Their Addiction to Calling the Police’

On Monday, members of the Dallas Police Department’s (DPD) leadership appeared before the city council’s public safety committee after a communication fiasco unfolded when a mid-level manager within the department prematurely released an ersatz memo that alarmed city council members and caused confusion.

During the committee briefing, a councilwoman shared her belief that residents are hooked on involving law enforcement.

“We have to wean people off their addiction to calling the police,” Councilwoman Carolyn King Arnold said, prefacing the comment by saying she “hated” to make the comparison.

Arnold was referring to the desire among many in city government to expand the use of Dallas Online Reporting System (DORS), the city’s online crime reporting infrastructure.

Robert Uribe, DPD’s communications and technology administrator, and DPD Major Israel Herrera gave a presentation that detailed the city’s current process for online reporting of crimes, including “efficiencies gained through call diversion,” as well as recommendations for further action. Interim Chief Lonzo Anderson also appeared to answer questions about DORS and the memo leak.

Though Arnold’s comments about the public’s interactions with police were especially strong, the support for expanding DORS and displeasure with the release of the memo were virtually unanimous.

Other council members wanted answers about how the communications error took place.

Councilman Lee Kleinmann pressed DPD’s command staff to provide the name of the individual who leaked the document. Department leadership took responsibility for the employee but declined to state the person’s name.

Anderson stated that the document had “inaccurate information” and that there would be a complete internal affairs inquiry into what happened. He only specified that it was a “mid-level manager” who had made the mistake.

“It causes a lack of trust in the community,” Councilman Adam McGough said.

Committee members bewailed the fact that such weighty supposed policy changes were communicated directly from a lower-level employee to the media. 

Councilman Casey Thomas II marveled that he found out about the document on Facebook after an acquaintance texted him to ask what he thought of the policies outlined therein.

Gates prompted Assistant City Manager Jon Fortune and police command staff to clarify that an officer may still be dispatched even if the alleged offense the resident is reporting is eligible to be registered through DORS. 

DPD confirmed that an officer would indeed be sent to any situation in which individuals were in danger or where there was a possibility of violence.

One of the more jarring provisions of the leaked memo was its reference to disputes arising from interference with child custody orders. The language in the document appeared to instruct that anyone experiencing a violation of a child custody order would have to report it online or jump through hoops before having an officer appear in person.

However, DPD clarified that “if anyone is in danger, a police officer will be dispatched.”

The presentation also pointed to offenses “eligible” to be reported through the DORS system, a policy that is vastly different from the directive in the leaked memo, which stated officers “will no longer be dispatched” to certain calls with limited exceptions.

The “staff recommendations” outlined in DPD’s presentation appear to be directed toward the public safety committee and were likely formed by DPD in cooperation with the city manager’s office.

Gates told The Texan on Monday in a text message that the essence of DPD’s position is an emphasis on DORS.

“Essentially, DPD [is] not recommending changes to dispatch but will continue to encourage DORS when applicable,” Gates wrote.

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