Dallas police rescind memo that said some 911 calls should be directed to online reporting system

A Dallas city memo advising that police would not be dispatched to handle some crime calls was abruptly overturned over the weekend when the department announced it had been issued early.

The memo, criticized by Governor Greg Abbott when it spread on social media, said officials would not be dispatched to emergency calls about graffiti, credit and debit card fraud, and vehicle break-ins – although staff would be dispatched if there was any indication would give “Persistent Disturbance or Distress.”

Instead, in most situations, callers are instructed to file information through an online reporting system. Other crimes mentioned in the January 1 memo included criminal mischief, theft, custody interference, lost property, reckless harm, and harassing phone calls.

Abbott responded to the news of the memo on Twitter on Saturday, saying, “The state of Texas will begin work this month to fix this.”

“Everyone in our state deserves to be protected from crime,” he said. “We will restore law and order to Texas.”

Later that evening, Dallas police said the memo had been overturned because it was issued early while the department was considering a proposal to direct callers to the online reporting system launched in June 2019 to address staff shortages help.

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said Sunday that he and incoming police chief Eddie Garcia were unaware of the plan listed in the overturned memo.

“Important changes like this should be publicly discussed and carefully reviewed, and all public safety decisions must put the people of Dallas first,” he said.

Alderman Jennifer Staubach Gates said in a written statement that she had been notified that the memo had been overturned, reported KXAS-TV (NBC5).

Gates, chair of the council’s public security committee, said it was premature to initiate the changes before the committee was briefed and before Garcia began to work.

The committee will be briefed on the policy of the memo on Jan. 11, she said.

Mike Mata, president of the Dallas Police Association, said Sunday that the guideline was recommended in a study to improve efficiency and reduce the time it takes to respond to crimes.

By being instructed to report certain incidents online, officers will have more time to handle higher priority calls, he said.

He agreed to ask homeowners to use online reports to crack down on crimes such as graffiti, petty theft, and criminal mischief.

“Often times the homeowner just needs to prepare a report for insurance purposes,” he said. “There is a very serious backlog when all of these non-priority call forms are held, when there are much more violent call forms on the sheet, when there are no officers to handle them.”

Although he did not agree to include other crimes on the list, such as: B. For example, custody interference or vehicle break-in, he found that other major cities in Texas were using online reporting for some low priority calls.

“We just kept reacting to them and were really reluctant to leave that kind of mindset,” he said.

Mata said he believed the memo was sent by mistake – and noticed that there was no recipient or no signature. Such a policy change must be explained to the public before it is implemented, he said.

“I don’t think the department thought it would happen that way,” he said. “It was unfortunate. I think something like this is likely to be kicked out again, but it definitely has to be kicked out with a very transparent conversation and an explanation to the public. “

Mata said the now revoked memo made it sound like the department was about to ignore some crimes.

“And that’s not true at all – they’re still being investigated,” he said.

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