Special to The Dallas Examiner
As thousands took to Dallas streets protesting the unarmed killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in May, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins met with local clergy, activists and city officials to discuss what collective efforts could be forged to stop the killing of unarmed Black people and promote more just interactions between police and communities of color.
Meeting participants developed 10 directives aimed to tackle the problem directly and asked Jenkins to form a working group of community and city leaders to see how local tax dollars could work toward the group’s goal.
“Our initial Zoom call wasn’t just about feeling heard, it was about developing an opportunity for real systemic change,” said Jenkins, who organized the countywide task force to determine how best to meet the group’s overall goals.
The Working Group on New Directions for Public Safety and Positive Community Change met for six weeks listening to best practices across the nation and prepared a report to fold those policies into local governments. It heard testimony from 13 individuals that included expert witnesses and residents directly impacted by incarceration, poverty and mental health crises.
“The Working Group came together and positioned Dallas County leadership to discern the zeitgeist and open the door to a new era of public safety,” said Rev. Frederick Haynes of Friendship-West Baptist Church. “The zeitgeist has exposed a pandemic of injustice that contradicts who we claim to be as Americans. The policing system is rooted in an ugly history of policing some while protecting others. Our convening challenged us to summon the moral courage to reimagine what public safety should look like.”
Other members concurred it is past time to move toward real change.
“We are in a moment of crisis, and it requires us to transform the ways we operate,” said Sara Mokuria of Mothers Against Police Brutality. “This is not the moment for incremental steps and small tweaks to the system.”
The document, 10 New Directions for Public Safety and Positive Community Change, included a range of recommendations with two main purposes: a) to change police use of force, particularly deadly force, and b) to change budget priorities away from policing in order to increase investment for unmet human needs in housing, health care, mental health services, employment, recreation, the arts and other aspects of community wellbeing.
“I want to thank County Administrator Darryl Martin, committee members, and county and city staff for their courage and willingness to hear one another and work together. I hope the New Directions report released today will serve as a catalyst for innovative policy changes,” Judge Jenkins added. “Faced with the twin crises in policing and in unmet community needs, we must act.”
Working Group on New Directions for Public Safety and Positive Community Change
Rev. Dr. Frederick Haynes III, Friendship West Baptist Church
Rev. Dr. Michael Waters, Abundant Life AME Church
Imam Dr. Omar Suleiman, Faith Forward Dallas
Sara Mokuria, Mothers Against Police Brutality
Kristian Hernandez, Our City Our Future
Jodi Voice Yellowfish, American Indian Heritage Day
María Yolisma García, North Texas Dream Team
Brittany White, Faith in Action
Mercedes Fulbright, In Defense of Black Lives
John Fullinwider, Mothers Against Police Brutality
Susan Cluse, City Manager, Balch Springs
T.C. Broadnax, City Manager, Dallas
Brandon Wright, City Manager, DeSoto
Chris Hillman, City Manager, Irving
Opal Mauldin-Jones, City Manager, Lancaster
Cliff Keheley, City Manager, Mesquite
John Creuzot, Dallas County
Darryl Martin, Administrator, Dallas County
Gordon Hikel, Assistant Administrator, Dallas County
Angelina Smith, Dallas County
Jheison Romain, Dallas County
Shay Cathey, Dallas County