There have been 16 police shootings in Dallas this year, 8 of them fatal. One of them in South Dallas sparked angry protests. A month later, Police Chief David Brown faced concerned citizens at a town hall meeting.
About 100 people came to St. Luke Community United Methodist Church wanting answers. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings opened the meeting admitting that back in the 60s he, too, didn't trust the police.
Rawlings: The police was the arm of terrible racism in this country for decades. And in the 60s, man, I didn’t trust the police and I was white. They were something to be feared not trusted.
Trusting police has long been an issue in South Dallas.
On June 24, Officer Brian Rowden fatally shot 31-year old James Harper, who fled a house where drugs were found. Dallas Police Chief David Brown told the gathering that the shooting happened after an exhausting foot chase and several attempts to subdue Harper failed.
Dallas Police Chief David Brown: Officer Rowden believes I’m exhausted, I can't beat this guy. And we got a win a fight and if you lose a fight, you lose your gun. If you lose your gun, you lose your life. That’s the reality of policing in American cities.
Harper did not have a gun and was shot four times. Following community protests, Chief Brown issued new policies to help officers respond more effectively and protect citizens’ rights. They include requiring all officers are taser trained, getting written and video consent for searches, sending shooting cases to the FBI for review and conducting foot chases in the safest manner possible.
Chief Brown: We can be better at chasing people, to protect officers first and citizens second.
After Brown and other leaders answered questions from State Representative Eric Johnson, only 30 minutes remained for questions from the community and tensions flared.
State Representative Eric Johnson: Show some respect.
Chief Brown: I’m trying to answer.
Kimberly McMillan, who says she's James Harper's cousin, got to ask the last question to Chief Brown.
McMillan: Could you please just come talk to us? I mean it’s James Harper's family that really just needs answers.
Chief Brown: I'll agree to meet with any of your family members as soon as possible. Let’s schedule that meeting.
McMillan: Okay, thank you.
But McMillan doesn't trust Brown will keep his word.
McMillan: They make promises about everything and don’t hold to their promise. That’s the way I feel about it but if he do that will be a good thing.
Chief Brown: I'm committed to meeting with them and anyone else I need to listen to in the community.
State Representative Eric Johnson, who set up the town hall meeting, trusts the dialogue between police, leaders and the community will continue.