DALLAS (AP) – Three top Dallas County law enforcement leaders answered residents’ questions and heard their concerns in a town hall meeting this week about recent officer-involved shootings.
Dallas Police Chief David Brown, Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins and Sheriff Lupe Valdez attended the Monday night meeting inside a downtown Dallas church.
The district attorney announced last week that he will create a unit to independently investigate police shootings. Watkins said he has been working on establishing the unit for two years before national attention shifted recently to Ferguson, Missouri, where an unarmed black man’s fatal shooting by a police officer has prompted protests.
Watkins told the crowd inside of St. Paul United Methodist Church that “we’re not Missouri.”
“We need to restore the public trust and to do that we believe we need an independent voice from an independent agency,” he said. Watkins said he hoped his unit would be able to accelerate the pace of investigations.
One audience member criticized Watkins for not winning more indictments against police, The Dallas Morning News reported. Collette Flanagan’s son was fatally shot by a Dallas officer. The officer, who was cleared by a grand jury, had said her son was choking him until he could not breathe.
Watkins replied to Flanagan he cannot indict anyone and that it is up to a grand jury to do so.
The Dallas police chief said he supports Watkins’ plan to create the investigative unit. He also said the department has 200 cameras that police officers can wear that are on the way to help document officers’ and suspects’ actions.
“You can’t have enough oversight when it comes to police-officer-involved shootings in any city,” Brown said.
The Dallas County sheriff also said he supports Watkins’ investigative unit.
The Dallas Police Association said earlier Monday that it wants the district attorney’s investigators to collaborate with the Dallas Police Department’s Special Investigative Unit on reviews of all officer-involved shootings. It previously opposed the entire plan.
The Dallas police chief said in an email he was pleased by the association’s turnaround.
“It’s a pleasant surprise and will help us move forward together,” Brown said.