Other Voices

If police aren’t more open about actions, Fort Worth seems more dangerous than it is

Last Thursday, my East Fort Worth neighborhood was suddenly swarming with police, SWAT teams, police helicopters, ambulances, and police officers on foot carrying rifles.

Eastbound Interstate 30 had police cars and news vans every few feet. Tandy Hills Park, Broadcast Hill, and Scenery Hill Road were swarming with cops. Two nearby schools were on lockdown for hours. People were terrified, wondering if it was safe to go outside.

We were given no official information. The Nextdoor neighborhood listserv was blowing up with people desperate for news, particularly those who were away from their homes, wondering if their homes, pets, and neighbors were safe.

And here is the sum total of detail released by the Fort Worth police: “Yesterday we had two individuals that were outstanding and a search was conducted. Both subjects were located and arrested.”

That’s it? Not a word has been published or broadcast about this that I can find. No tweets from the Star-Telegram. No Facebook posts.

So now we have to crowdsource our news?

For hours, a Fort Worth neighborhood was scared, unsure what to do, with rumors escalating. And the next day, there was still not one official word on what the heck happened.

This isn’t just a case of nosy neighbors. This is case of citizens of a city being left in the dark about what is happening around them. Rumors fly, filling the vacuum of information — it’s drug dealers, it’s escaped convicts, it’s two people, it’s several people, all very armed and dangerous.

All this contributes to the city feeling much more dangerous than it actually is. This allows advocates of “law and order” to lobby for less oversight of the police — and against a citizens review board, to examine the Police Department. Creating one was a key recommendation of the city’s Race and Culture Task Force, on which I served for a year.

This lack of oversight can well contribute to more abuse of police powers ,which we all know disproportionately affects minority populations in the city. And this leads to a dangerous cycle that our city can ill afford right now.

The police have a responsibility to give the people accurate, timely, complete information. If they do not, the media should challenge them aggressively.

We need a police force we can trust and media that will hold them accountable on our behalf.

We appear to have neither in our city right now, and Fort Worth is the poorer for it.

Katie Sherrod, a former Star-Telegram columnist, was a member of the Race and Culture Task Force created by the city in 2017.
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