Dallas Police Oversight Board discusses calls to reallocate funding to Dallas Police Department

After nearly two weeks of protests filling the streets, the Dallas Police Oversight Board is meeting virtually to discuss how the department's handled those protests.

The Tuesday meeting started with a nearly 9-minute moment of silence for George Floyd.

The meeting came as ten city council members send a memo to the city manager detailing how and why they want to re-allocate some police funding.

Because of coronavirus restrictions, the board is meeting for the first time since March. Events of the past week and a half have prompted them to meet on Tuesday.

After more than 11 days of protest in Dallas, there have been calls to reform and, from some, defund the Dallas Police Department.

Board Chair Jesuorobo Enobakhare Jr says he has serious concerns about the use of force on protestors at the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge last week where nearly 700 peaceful protestors were detained for hours before eventually being released.

Because of recent events, the board wants to start looking at possible policy changes when it comes to peaceful protests and use of force.

“I think that we don't need the riot gear. We don't need the weapons. We don't need the crowd deterrents,” Enobakhare said prior to Tuesday’s meeting. “For personal peaceful protests, they need space to be able to exercise their First Amendment rights. You know, Martin Luther King used civil disobedience.”

Despite some technical issues with the oversight board meeting, there was some substance that came from it.

The board voted unanimously to ask the city manager to give the police monitor a DPD log in and unfettered access to all civilian complaint investigations.

Tonya McClary is the Dallas Police Monitor. The board voted to give her access to body camera video and other data they say she has not been allowed to see.  Right now from March to May, there’s been more than 300 police complaints from civilians.

Another call from protesters and now ten city council members is to reallocate funding from DPD.

A letter from a majority of Dallas council members was sent to the city manager to reallocate public safety funding and increase community funding.

Supporters say there are other social services needs that can be funded that will improve public safety.

Councilman Adam Bazaldua said it does not mean reduce the number of police on the streets in Dallas.

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson says calls from some people to defund the Dallas Police Department are premature.

The mayor agrees that says city leaders need to take a serious look at spending more on social services but not necessarily at the expense of the police department.

“If what people mean by defund is to have a more robust conversation at budget time about how much money we spend on public safety or how much we spend on the police department, that's a conversation I'm not only willing to have but fully expected to have in any case,” Johnson said. “I think it’s more of a question of reallocation than spending more money because I don't think more money is available. We were just talking a few weeks ago before the recent protests about how we don't have any money. That didn't change. We are still impacted by COVID-19 on our city budget. We still have the same hit to our sales tax. We still have the same issues with federal funding not being flexible enough to fix holes in our budget.”

Enobakhare says recommendations they make to Dallas PD can be accepted by the police chief, changed during discussions with the chief or rejected. But the board also has the option to bring those recommendations to the city manager.

Dallas Police Chief Renne Hall joined the meeting late. She told the board she would share body camera and other video from recent protest incidents with the board for review.

Budget talks for the city of Dallas begin in August.