A group advocating for stronger police oversight in Fort Worth says the city should move slowly and listen more before moving forward with plans for greater accountability.
City Manager David Cooke, following recommendations from the Race and Culture Task Force, said he plans to prioritize hiring a police monitor, a civilian tasked with tracking the department, and implementing a community oversight board meant to provide a bridge between the residents and City Hall when it comes to matters of policing.
Those wanting greater police oversight in the city say these are steps in the right direction, but Pamela Young on Tuesday urged the city council to slow down the process of hiring the police monitor in order to take in additional input from residents. Recommendations had called for hiring the monitor position this fall, after the city sets next year’s budget.
“We are here talking about the need for community police oversight for one reason,” she said. “Because there is a clear problem with the Fort Worth Police Department and how they interact with certain members of our community.”
Young is an organizer with United Fort Worth, a grassroots coalition that has pushed for greater citizen participation in policing through its Tarrant County Coalition for Community Oversight.
She spoke for a group of people that include Jacqueline Craig. Craig was arrested with her two daughters in December 2016 after she had called police to resolve a dispute with a neighbor. The confrontation that ensued was captured on video, which sparked outrage and complaints of excessive force.
Young said those directly impacted by police as well as city staff, members of the various police unions and other community members should be heavily involved in crafting how the community oversight board and police monitor work.
“No conversations about us, without us,” she said.
Tuesday was the third council meeting in a row where more than a dozen people spoke about policing in Fort Worth. Since 20-year-old JaQuavion Slaton was shot by multiple police officers June 9, residents have voiced frustration, often saying police have not been transparent, racially biased or too slow to hold officers accountable for excessive force.
In the case of Slaton, police have said officers believed he was armed and dangerous. Evidence shows he was struck with a bullet from the same gun he was found with, along with multiple rounds from police weapons.
Some residents commended Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus for releasing body camera footage of the shooting despite the department originally saying it had no plans to do so. But many, like B.R. Daniels, a pastor, said the public deserved more. He urged the city council and manager to build the public’s trust in the department.
“You have some bad cops in Fort Worth that have ruined the reputation of the police department,” he said.