FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Fort Worth City Manager David Cooke has selected a panel of national experts to review department policies and practices and provide recommendations on changes the police department should implement to improve and retain public trust and confidence.
The announcement comes almost one month after Officer Aaron Dean shot and killed Atatiana Jefferson in her home while responding to a call from a concerned neighbor about her door being open.
Dean resigned and was charged with murder.
“First and foremost, I want to again express my complete confidence in Chief Kraus and the leadership team at the Fort Worth Police Department,” said City Manager Cooke. “To that end, I acknowledge that every organization can benefit from having an independent group of experts review policies and procedures to see where we can improve the work we do with, and for, our community.”
Cooke said the panel has extensive knowledge and policing experience in areas including applications of procedural justice, investigative best practices, bias-based policing and use of force.
They will conduct a rigorous and completely independent review of the police department, the city of Fort Worth said in a news release Friday.
“We were contacted by firms and individuals around the country who are recognized for this type of work,” said Cooke. “After a review of qualifications and experience, I believe we have assembled an excellent team to provide recommendations and best practices that will allow us to improve our police department and the way we work with all members of our community.”
The purpose for this review is to “identify patterns and practices related to police interactions with the public during investigative stops, searches, arrests, de-escalation and use of force incidents.”
The panel will examine police policies, operational practices, training, documentation, accountability systems, corrective and reporting procedures, and technology applications.
The review will include substantial interaction and listening sessions with community members, groups and police personnel.
Other areas the panel is expected to review include community policing and engagement, Internal Affairs complaints, recruiting, hiring and promotions, critical incident interactions within the mental health community, and interactions with youth.
In a statement, Mayor Betsy Price threw her support behind this effort:
The team of national experts that David Cooke has pulled together is exactly the action promised to Fort Worth residents. I wholeheartedly support Chief Kraus, his command staff and the entire police department, but believe working with this independent group of police policy experts and allowing them to provide recommendations will improve our promise to serve and protect all residents. It is my hope that together, we can continue to propel this positive step forward and continue to drive change for a better Fort Worth.
The panel will be led by Dr. Theron L. Bowman and Dr. Alex del Carmen. Both experts, the city said, have strong local and national ties, who also have extensive police reform experience.
Other panel members include:
Lynda Garcia – Policing Campaign Director, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights;
Emily Gunston – Washington Lawyers’ Committee and former USDOJ Civil Rights Division Deputy chief;
Tom Petroski, JD – former FBI Dallas Chief Legal Counsel;
Jonathan Smith – Washington Lawyers’ Committee and former USDOJ Civil Rights Division Chief;
Marcia Thompson, Esq. – law enforcement and civil rights attorney and consultant;
Dr. Rita Watkins – Executive Director of the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas.
City Manager Cooke will present the recommendations to City Council at the Tuesday, November 12 City Council Work Session.
Following presentation to the City Council and residents, City Manager Cooke will place a resolution to approve the creation of the panel on the Tuesday, November 19 City Council meeting agenda.
The panel’s review process will begin immediately upon finalization of the contracts with each individual or entity.
The review is expected to continue for several months, with regular updates, reports and recommendations on changes, and improvements.