“On two days a week apart we got intake calls where each person was a black teenager pulled over for a broken tail light,” said Krause. “The individuals claim that their tail lights were working. In the process of talking to police, the situation[s] escalated,” and both men ended up in jail. “You say to yourself, ‘Is this coincidence or just the modus operandi of some of the police departments in the area?’ ” he said.
Krause is still following up with the teenagers and also with a woman who said she was assaulted during a strip search by Crowley police. Retired Texas Christian University Prof. Donald Jackson, an NTCRP legal staffer and longtime American Civil Liberties Union volunteer, takes a more cautious approach to such calls.
“What an individual police officer does may or may not be a civil rights violation,” he said. “If it is a pattern or a practice or a policy of the police department itself, then it’s a civil rights violation. You’re always going to have people doing foolish things. Does that represent the will of an institution? Not necessarily.”
Harrington said that issues of police violence and accountability “need to be addressed in the North Texas area sooner rather than later. … Likewise, we need to get a disability rights campaign going in the area. There’s plenty of work, just not plenty of funds.
“The political climate [in Texas will] always affect us,” he said. “People generally don’t see the need for our work and are even hostile to it, until, of course, something happens that affects them. People have a difficult time understanding the idea that protecting the rights of one person is protecting the rights of all.”
Monitoring police policies and practices is a top priority for TCRP, especially in light of several high-profile shootings of unarmed black men by white police officers around the country.
Price is monitoring a development within the Dallas Police Department that she finds worrisome. The Dallas lawyer is working closely with other nonprofits like the Dallas Peace Center and Mothers Against Police Brutality.
“Dallas Police Chief David Brown recently enacted a new policy that allows any officer 72 hours to make a public statement after a [shooting] incident,” she said. “In that period, officers have access to witness statements and recordings. To give officers access to all the evidence and potentially let them formulate a story to fit it is problematic.”
Last year, The Dallas Morning News obtained police camera footage showing Dallas Police Cpl. Amy Wilburn firing and wounding 19-year-old Kelvion Walker, an unarmed carjacking suspect. The footage showed her firing at the car, which was slowly moving away from her. Walker was later fired by Chief Brown for breaching department protocol. The incident is one of several similar cases that have occurred recently in Dallas.
Similar but less attention-grabbing situations happen daily in Texas, Jackson said. Last October, the mother of a North Crowley High School student notified him that, at a band booster meeting her son was required to attend, a local pastor gave a lengthy and overtly Christian invocation. Jackson met with the school’s principal, who acknowledged the violation and took steps to prevent repetitions.
“On any given day in Texas when schools are in session there are violations of the First Amendment, [of the doctrine of] separation of church and state,” Jackson said. “It’s not so much in Dallas and Fort Worth, but in outside areas like Crowley. It’s mostly people who just don’t know what the rules are.”