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After internal report on Dallas protests, Police chief issues new policy limiting use of less-lethal ammunition in crowd control

Dallas Morning News logo Dallas Morning News 7/22/2020 By Obed Manuel, The Dallas Morning News
Dambisa Moyo et al. sitting in front of a building: Dallas Police Chief U. Rene\u008e Hall speaks during a law enforcement roundtable on Friday, June 12, 2020 at City Hall in Dallas. © Ryan Michalesko/The Dallas Morning News/The Dallas Morning News/TNS Dallas Police Chief U. Rene\u008e Hall speaks during a law enforcement roundtable on Friday, June 12, 2020 at City Hall in Dallas.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

In response to a Dallas Police Department internal report on actions taken during the city’s earliest protests in late May and June, Police Chief U. Reneé Hall issued an order on Wednesday limiting the use of less-lethal ammunition in crowd control.

The internal report’s existence, first reported by online news publication Central Track, raised questions about Hall’s lack of transparency on the department’s unprecedented use of tear gas and less-lethal ammunition, which have become the subject of a federal court case.

Hall’s announcement on Wednesday comes after a ban on less-lethal force took effect June 11 until Sept. 9, according to a preliminary injunction filed in the Northern District of Texas last month. The decision was reached after an agreement between civil rights attorneys, the city and Hall.

Police brutality and accountability has been at the forefront of national conversations and protests since the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black Minneapolis man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly eight minutes. In the immediate days after Floyd’s death, police deployed tear gas and less-lethal ammunition on crowds that peacefully marched through Dallas.

The Dallas police internal report, according to Central Track, had been shared with council members in June but has not been made public. It details the amount and types of ammunition used at the protests.

But the report does not address key questions about decisions made by high-ranking commanders during protests such as:

Who made the call to use such force in crowd control?

Who decided to bring in outside law enforcement agencies?

What training did they have and who was involved in the decision to arrest 674 protesters on the Margaret Hunt Hill bridge on June 1, which put the department under scrutiny?

In a statement released by a Dallas Police spokeswoman, she confirmed the report was shared with members of the Dallas City Council on June 17, but called it a “draft.” The News had requested an interview with Hall.

“This initial preliminary draft report was requested by several City Council members,” the statement said. “It is not a final, complete or comprehensive report. We do not release draft reports to the public. The City Manager and the Dallas Police Department wanted to provide opportunity for the report to be comprehensive and allow time to fully review and investigate additional information provided by the public.”

Council member David Blewett, who represents part of downtown, confirmed that he received the preliminary report on the protests on June 17 after it had been completed five days earlier.

To his understanding, Blewett said, the report was potentially incomplete and so the city manager’s office cautioned that it not be shared publicly due to pending litigation and because it might be inaccurate.

Still, Blewett said, it’s been more than 50 days since the arrests on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, and he believes police and city staff should have had time to complete a finalized, accurate report.

“I’ll that responsibility in that I should have asked that this report should’ve been accelerated,” Blewett said. “I did not ask to have it publicly released, and I think I should’ve. I do think it’s important to have this important information out there and in a timely fashion.”

Jesuorobo Enobakhare, chairman of the Community Police Oversight Board, said that when the board met in June, it was promised an after-action report on the protests. When reached by phone on Wednesday, Enobakhare said he had not received the report. The department’s statement did not address why the oversight board had not received the report.

“I am disappointed they did not share this with the board that does police oversight,” Enobakhare said. “I’m disappointed because it’s the same issue that we continue to have: the lack of transparency.”

Multiple protesters have been outspoken against the department’s response, and some have called for Hall’s resignation for the use of force.

Last month, the department placed at least two officers on administrative leave for excessive use of force during protests.

“SWAT must continue to have reasonable and necessary tools in its continuum of force options,” Hall said in a news release announcing restrictions on less-lethal ammunition. “But there will now be limits on their appropriate use. They can be used to control violence but not peaceful demonstrations.”

In an emergency City Council meeting on June 6, Hall said she didn’t know whether her department used rubber bullets — a term the council used broadly — and was still reviewing video footage.

In the written statement on Wednesday, Hall and her command staff said they are continuing to review videos and written reports collected from the events in downtown Dallas between May 29 through June 1, 2020.

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©2020 The Dallas Morning News

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