The “After Action Report” on the Dallas Police Department’s handling of demonstrations this year goes before the city council public safety committee at a special meeting Tuesday.
The report covers protests that occurred between May 29 and June 1 when thousands of people demonstrated against police misconduct and social injustice after the Minneapolis death of George Floyd at the hands of police in that city.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson is not a member of the public safety committee, but he wrote in an email statement he was anxious for the review.
“I have deep concerns about the lack of leadership, the failure of planning, and the miscommunication detailed in the after-action report. It raises further questions about police commanders’ decision-making and contains at least one statement that I personally know to be false. The report’s findings, analyses, inaccuracies, and omissions deserve significant scrutiny from the City Council Public Safety Committee. We must have accountability. The peaceful protesters, affected business owners, and people of Dallas deserve clear and thorough answers regarding the ‘errors, miscalculations and shortcomings’ in the report.”
One error the mayor’s office pointed to was a claim on page 39 of the document that the mayor caught police off guard with his announcement of a curfew.
“On Sunday, May 31 the Mayor held a press conference and announced the decision to enact a curfew that would be enforced in the downtown Dallas area. The Media Relations Unit, unaware the announcement was going to be made, determined that no official notification was made to the rank and file officers prior to the public announcement. The officers in the field heard rumors of the ordinance and began calling seeking confirmation and clear direction, especially since they would be tasked with the enforcement,“ the report said.
In fact, the press conference announcing the curfew that day was held by Police Chief U. Renee Hall, not Mayor Eric Johnson. The media relations unit issued an invitation to the 2:30 p.m. press conference that day.
At the conference, Hall discussed the curfew and said looters were a primary concern.
Follow two nights of protests, Dallas will be under a curfew starting Sunday night that will last for “several days,” police Chief U. Renee Hall said.
“These looters, they have become extremely aggressive. And our enforcement efforts have escalated. We will not tolerate any more damage to our city. And we need to make sure that we protect our city, and we protect the people who do intend to protest peacefully, as well as the residents and business owners of this community,” Hall said.
Monday, a spokesman said police could not answer questions about the report until after the city council review on Tuesday.
Critics claimed other concerns about police mishandling of peaceful protesters are not covered in the report.
Dallas attorney Megan Nordyke was arrested outside Dallas City Hall on Saturday, May 30 around 4:30 p.m., about the time she said she decided it was time to leave the demonstration.
“Things just erupted into chaos,” she said. “The police officers seemed to be threatened by everything. It seemed like they were overwhelmed. It seemed like they were fearful and because they were fearful, they reacted in a hyper-aggressive way.”
Nordyke said she was held in a police van for an extended period of time without air conditioning or water, then allowed to see paramedics in a holding area before being taken to jail.
“One of the things that I remember seeing that struck me was there were pizza boxes everywhere like this was a pizza party for the officers. And that was a little upsetting to me because it felt like their mood was very jovial,” Nordyke said.
Police have said that charges against Nordyke have been dropped but she said she has received no official verification.
Her attorney David Henderson said the Dallas County District Attorney has promised not to accept charges from police against peaceful protesters.
“Chief Hall has said that she plans to investigate several of her officers. Given that she charged the victims of the crime, the alleged victims and all the witnesses, I don’t know who it is she intends to interview,” Henderson said.
Nordyke said it was difficult for her to read the police after-action report.
“The tone of the document itself seems to position the protesters in violent opposition to the police. That was by and large not the case. Based on what I saw, it was the opposite,” Nordyke said.
There was indeed looting on Friday and Saturday night after the organized demonstrations concluded. The report said looting was mainly due to “outside influencers” and not the peaceful protesters.
The report said just 50 claims of excessive force were submitted from the thousands of people who were in the streets.
“It’s low because so few people believe in the ability or the willingness of this department to self-regulate and take complaints seriously,” attorney Alison Grinter said.
The civil rights attorney who also practices criminal law represents other demonstrators who were arrested in the protests.
The report makes numerous recommendations for changes in police policy in several areas. It calls for better communication and intelligence by police.
The report specifies changes Hall has already made to restrict the use of tear gas and pepper balls on peaceful demonstrators and require officers who witness police brutality to intervene.
Grinter said the report does not go far enough.
“You cannot address problems if you refuse to acknowledge,” she said.
Grinter and Nordyke said they are encouraged by the city council review scheduled for Tuesday at 1 p.m.