Directive follows case in which cop was embarrassingly caught in lie
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 News reported 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 2013 incident in which a Dallas police officer fired on a mentally ill man, Bobby Gerald Bennett, without 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 typically saw officers make statements within hours of shooting incidents, is merely about “improving the investigation.”
“It is my belief that this decision will improve the investigation of our most critical incidents,” Brown said in a statement to the Dallas Morning News.
At an October news conference, Brown claimed he’d been affected by memory loss while on duty. “It wasn’t until two or three days later to where I remembered it accurately,” he said.
Brown points to “fairly conclusive” studies which indicate officers are too emotionally affected following a traumatic incident to be able to recall an accurate version of events.
Don Tittle, one of the attorneys representing Bobby Bennett, says this is merely a tactic to buy cops time in order 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 statements in order for them to be able fabricate lies?