Published November 17, 2014
The Dallas police chief won guarded praise Thursday for his handling of the release of dashboard camera video that showed white officers hitting a black suspect, but some people disputed his claims that the beating was an isolated incident and not racially motivated.
Chief David Brown released copies of the video when he announced that three officers would face criminal charges. Brown also asked the FBI to launch a civil rights investigation and met with the man injured by officers, along with his father and pastor.
Police said there were no reports of unrest or protests Thursday, a day after the video was released, and a civil rights leader acknowledged that was in part due to Brown.
"I think the department has handled it fine, but I think the department is naive," said Peter Johnson, a former executive with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a civil rights group, who now runs a Dallas nonviolence institute.
"No racial overtones. If you believe that, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you," he said.
"I was impressed with what (Brown) did," added Rev. Ronald Wright, who works with the civil rights group Justice Seekers Texas. "But this is not about him. This is about the mentality of the officers who work for him."
The video shows officers hitting Andrew Collins, 28, with their fists and batons for about 14 seconds after a brief chase Sept. 5. It also shows an officer casually whistling as he moves the dashboard camera so it doesn't film the incident. Collins, who has an extensive criminal record, suffered bruising and blood clots.
Police said 22 officers responded to the scene, yet the incident became known only after an officer left an anonymous note for a supervisor suggesting someone look at the recordings. One of the responding officers was black, at least two were Hispanic and the rest were white, police said.
Dallas attorney Don Tittle, who represented 19 residents who sued the city after paid police informants planted bogus drugs on them, noted that every officer at the scene had an obligation to report the matter.
"It's one thing if you're talking about two (officers) in a car," Tittle said. "You could write it off as just two guys. But when you're talking about multiple units, you have to think this is more prevalent."
Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins promised Thursday to prosecute the three officers, saying "no one is above the law." One of the officers, a new-hire still on probation, was fired. The other two face internal affairs investigations. Three other officers were assigned to desk duty and face internal investigations.
Collins' criminal record includes convictions on drug, weapons and drunk driving charges, according to Texas Department of Public Safety records. Five of his previous eight arrests were by Dallas police.
From the video, it doesn't appear the he resisted the officers' attempts to place him in handcuffs. During the chase, he repeatedly slowed his motorcycle before speeding away. One officer can be heard on the recording using an expletive and saying he planned to beat up Collins once he stopped.
The two officers who initiated the chase were hired in 2009, and Brown said he wanted to review the practice of pairing together young officers.
Along with Collins, Brown also met with Collins' father and pastor. They did not return messages Thursday.
The most recent high-profile case of Dallas police misconduct also involved a young white officer confronting a black man. Officer Robert Powell stopped NFL player Ryan Moats' sport utility vehicle outside a hospital after it rolled through a red light. Powell, who was 25, pulled his gun and threatened to arrest Moats instead of allowing him inside a hospital where his mother-in-law was dying. Powell later resigned.
"If it was inappropriate, then you say it's inappropriate," said David Margulies, head of a Dallas firm specializing in crisis communications who praised Brown. "You say: 'That's not how we do business. We don't beat up prisoners.' It's common sense."
Associated Press reporter Danny Robbins contributed to this story.