Dallas County’s new district attorney, Susan Hawk, held her first town hall meeting Monday night. And it was in southern Dallas, the political stronghold of the man she replaced, Craig Watkins.
About one hundred people took their seats inside Concord Baptist Church in South Dallas for Hawk’s first town hall.
After being introduced by State Senator Royce West, Hawk laid out the mission statement for her administration.
“The Dallas County district attorney’s office will work to grow trust in the office, to create innovative prosecution and to turn solutions that support each community in their needs and to work each day to prevent and reduce crime," Hawk said.
Then she opened the public meeting by asking how the DA’s office can better work with the community. Many in the audience were concerned about racial profiling.
Virginia Bradford was one of the first to speak up.
“So many of our young men do fear and run from the officers because they fear for their lives," Bradford said. "They have been racially profiled so much."
Another, Dominique Alexander, said he’s tired of the back and forth blame game with police.
"Unless we go into the police departments and [change] the culture of the police department and actually encourage more community policing," he said "Right now in these areas it’s not being addressed.”
Hawk generally agreed with everyone who spoke, and the audience was respectful. Some were thrilled with the town hall. Marvin Earle, who’s lived in the community for 30 years, said this type of forum is unprecedented. Still, he says there’s more outreach to do.
“And if you continue to bring programs such as this, not just at the church but at our businesses, everywhere, this is a community not a political section of town, it’s a community.”
Hawk committed to regular town hall meetings in her inaugural speech last month. At Concord Baptist Church she promised this meeting would be the first of many, and announced an outreach program with Dallas schools to start in April.
Hawk says the program will be an opportunity to talk with students about law enforcement and the role of the district attorney’s office.
"And let them know that there’s someone from the criminal justice system who’s not just trying to prosecute them and put them behind bars. That we at the DA want to prevent crime and bring awareness to these situations,” she says.
Hawk also stressed her goals of creating a mental health division to serve criminals and to review how the DA’s office prosecutes shootings that involve police officers.