Dalworthington Gardens Withholding Checkpoint Policies and Records

In response to an open records request to the Dalworthington Gardens Department of Public Safety following a license and insurance checkpoint over the Labor Day weekend, the city’s attorney has drafted a sweeping request to Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott to withhold all information of the city’s policies for establishing checkpoints and governing the conduct of officers at those operations.

Civil rights advocates have been wary of suspicionless checkpoints for being vulnerable to abuse as a revenue-generating program against members of low-income communities who have fewer resources to challenge criminal charges stemming from those officer interactions. That has led officials in nearby agencies, like the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, to be forthcoming with the traffic data being used to set up the location and timing of checkpoints. Dalworthington Gardens’s checkpoint was held near the intersection of W. Pioneer Pkwy. and S. Bowen St. on Aug. 29, which for a few blocks is within the city’s jurisdiction.

According to the city’s request for an opinion from the attorney general, release of department policies could pose a threat to officer safety and others present on scene of a license checkpoint. The city’s Department of Public Safety expressed reservations that releasing information from its policy manual concerning the location, timing, method, and duration of the checkpoint would “unduly interfere with law enforcement activity and crime detection and prevention.” They are concerned people may learn of opportunities “to evade or interfere with” checkpoints and the investigation techniques of officers.

While officer and civilian safety should be a consideration, without information being made available for public oversight, there is no opportunity to validate that the policies for the checkpoint are administered with due process equally for all drivers who encounter a checkpoint or if voters in Dalworthington Gardens want an opportunity to change those policies. Visitors have no means of considering if city policies are compromising to their privacy. By withholding this critical information, there is no way to determine what considerations the city is using to see if less intrusive measures could achieve the same purported ends of enforcing license and insurance compliance.

That is exactly what the “spectators,” as the city attorney referred to them, at the checkpoint were thwarted from doing since there is no way to know if the city’s written policies are being carried through. The city says that releasing information may also jeopardize the city’s criminal proceedings for the approximate 60 citations issued during that night. However, if policies were followed and have legal backing, release of the information should have no bearing on any pending criminal cases.

Even more alarming, the city is withholding information on what discretion officers are given in selecting which vehicles to stop at checkpoints. This raises serious concerns about the city’s policies, as the reason for detaining a driver should be objective and have no basis in officer discretion if it’s to be compliant with the federal constitution’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

Of the eight requests made, two were fulfilled, three were said to have no relevant information available, and three were withheld altogether for the reasons cited above. The city attorney states there is no responsive information to the requests for information that the Department of Public Safety relied upon in choosing to establish the checkpoint, information concerning the amount of revenue estimated to be generated by the checkpoint, and the total cost of the operation. According to the release, no property was seized.

With no public records concerning information the city used in choosing to establish when or how to best perform the operation, residents in Dalworthington Gardens are being shut out of the political process and are expected to give a free hand to a city government’s seemingly protracted grip.

Tyrant Joe Arpaio Fundraising in South Lake

Arizona sheriff and underwear mogul Joe Arpaio will be fundraising for the NE Tarrant Tea Party at a home in South Lake in September.

Arpaio’s presence casts such unease that one of the FAQs is whether guests will need to provide ID to attend. Luckily, “All patriots” are welcomed.

For the sum of $250, attendees will get to eat a homemade meal with Arpiao, unlike the detestable spread served to many of Arpaio’s prisoners yet to be convicted of a crime, along with an autographed pair of pink underwear similar to the garb provided in his Maricopa County jails. Granted, having people wear jailhouse underwear is a likely approximation for the disposition Arpaio has toward ordinary people.

Importance of Black Open Carry in South Dallas

Members of the newly minted Huey P. Newton Gun Club patrolled Dallas streets last week in pursuit police accountability and support of gun ownership.

Although the event was planned before the recent homicide of unarmed teenager Mike Brown by a white Ferguson (Mo.) police officer, his death may have been a national tipping point highlighting the militarization of police and their lack of accountability.

According to the club’s website:

Individuals across this nation have been stripped of due process, subjected to state-sponsored police terrorism, and continue to suffer the fate of being terminated extra-judicially.

In Dallas the police have murdered over 70 unarmed individuals, most of the black and brown men, over the last ten years. Excluding a recent incident where police testimony was contradicted by surveillance footage, there have been no indictments since 1973.

A group of “Black and Brown residents,” as the club’s websites describes, may seem alienating from the larger police accountability and gun rights movements, but it’s important for members of a largely black neighborhood to patrol neighborhoods they live in, deflating the argument that the unaccountable powers of (mostly white) police are needed for maintaining civil order. They are mutualizing the municipal policing service, building counter-power patterned after direct democracy.

In a comparable manner that decentralized police accountability organizations like Cop Block and the Peaceful Streets Projects don’t participate with active law enforcement officers, black-only exclusivity isn’t being anti-white, just recognizing that participation by whites, a group that’s historically distressed blacks, would have a chilling effect in organizing to express their grievances.

This shouldn’t rule out useful coalitions with blended organizations, though not on the terms of whites, but first in a culture of free and open expression needed for a just society.

Arlington PD Seeks Tolerance for Oppression

I recall that one of the concerns at an early local Peaceful Streets Project organizing event was to what extent actions for police accountability could further the legitimacy of policing as a professional institution. That’s particularly worth noting considering the receipt of a recent letter from the Arlington Police Department.

In a letter to several cop watch participants dated July 24, Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson wrote that he wishes to seek cooperation and extended an offer to discuss “this matter so that you can achieve your goals while we ensure the safety of our officers and the public.”

What Chief Johnson overlooks is that decentralized police accountability organizations like the Peaceful Streets Project and Cop Block aren’t interested in the political reforms he could offer. They are seeking direct action to build alternatives that undermine, not make improvements upon, hierarchical control centers. However, in the meantime, I agree that practical steps can be had. For starters, police accountability would necessitate an elected review board with subpoena power, ending consent searches, no-knock raids, and civil forfeitures, and requiring video cameras on patrol officers.

Genuine police accountability is about bringing the police (with the economic and political special interests they protect hostile to working-class people) to the same level of authority as everyone else. It’s the professionalizing of policing, not the individuals officers, although their actions can be offensive, that offends me.

We are seemingly left with no option but to endure more violations of our dignity, further encroachments on our privacy, and harsher controls on our peaceful behaviors. We are hostage to a practically unaccountable occupying force. Cooperation with such an entity would be construed as nothing less than an abdication of accountability, a tolerance for the institution enforcing our oppression. The police may not responsible for the poverty and constraints of ordinary people, but they are well compensated to enforce the status quo of those conditions.

What I Saw at the Open Carry Tarrant County Demonstration

Posted above are some clips of my first open carry demonstration. At Saturday’s event, I didn’t participate by displaying a long gun or holding a sign. I just wanted to go as a bystander. By my count, there were about 155 people, not including about five media organizations and at least a pair of respectful counter-demonstrators.

Granted, I’m still not positive that these type of events promote gun rights, but I still appreciate that so many people are laboring for their rights.