Following the murders of five officers in Dallas, the media and public alike lamented that the attack had ironically been perpetrated against ‘one of the most progressive police departments in the nation,’ thanks to Chief David Brown at the helm — but a current Dallas officer has now come forward with allegations much to the contrary.
Officer Nick Novello serves in the Dallas Police Department, and has for 34 years, but the leadership of Chief Brown, the officer says, has been anything but the rosy portrait of unity he paints in public.
In fact, even before the fatal shootings earlier this month, bitterness and animosity over Brown’s leadership decisions have marred morale in the department. Novello accuses Brown of making sweeping choices concerning schedules and more without consulting anyone — and, as a consequence, officers are overworked and underpaid.
But a rather striking accusation tears apart Brown’s supposed outreach to the black community: Novello says distrust of the department by African-Americans has been fueled by a number of wrongful arrests to fill drug and public intoxication quotas.
Brown extended an invitation to black protesters angered over police shootings, saying, “We’re hiring. We’ll give you an application. We’ll help you resolve some of the problems you’re protesting about.
“And we’ll put you in your neighborhood …”
But, as Novello noted in an interview with the Daily Mail, “If he wants them to sign up, he had better stop criminalizing them for things like having small amounts of marijuana.
“Some officers fit people up by arresting them for being intoxicated when they refuse to show their IDs and that leads to a criminal record and difficulties finding a job
“Officers are under pressure to reach targets. There has to be an end to the arrest and ticket quota that exists within the Dallas Police Department.”
He added sharply, “I am sick and tired of the public face of togetherness the chief puts on when he knows there’s a lot of bad feeling behind the scenes.”
Policing for revenue, Novello explained, has rendered the department ineffectual in dealing with issues of greater importance — worse, he feels filling quotas contributes to predatory policing by emboldening officers with power over the people they should be protecting.
“There is a lot of anger out there that we have an inability to police ourselves and we will protect a rogue cop as a police department,” Novello said.
“A lot of the black community are supportive of the police, and that is wonderful, but a large number say police can’t police themselves,” Novello continued. “Not only can’t we police ourselves, we go out of our way to protect the predator cop.
“In my estimation, the quota system is corrupt. You are telling the officer who has a great deal of power that he is required to exercise that and generate funds for the city. Arrests generate money.
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“As a beat cop, I see the computer, I see the calls holding, I see the inability to dispatch and deal with real-time needs.”
Beyond ticket and arrest quotas, officers already furious over long hours, low pay, and understaffing became enraged and protested when Brown made sweeping shift changes. Those changes to hundreds of officers’ shifts prompted four police associations — the Black Police Association of Dallas, the Dallas Fraternal Order of Police, the National Latino Law Enforcement Organization’s Dallas chapter, and the Dallas Police Association — to call for Brown’s resignation.
But the chief’s refusal to give up his job only caused resentment among the force to fester.
“We are vastly understaffed,” Novello said. “Last month we lost 48-50 officers, which is unheard of. One officer left to go drive a Coca-Cola truck. Another who was 43 years old retired after 14 years saying, ‘I’m out, I’m out.’ Morale is very low.”
Officers left in droves, in part, due to trauma over the slaughter of five of Novello’s colleagues. Keeping the DPD sufficiently staffed, Novello warned, has become a matter of grave importance — without enough cops in the department, “the only viable solution would be that we embrace the assistance of the National Guard or some federal agency to help police the streets of Dallas,” though, obviously, that “would be very unpalatable because it would mean the loss of state, city sovereignty.
“As a police officer, I can look you in the eye and say, ‘We have got your back, we are out there patrolling’ … but no, we are not. I can recall a number of days when I went to detail in the morning and there might have been seven of us there and after they put officers on special assignment, there was one or two police officers for the whole district.”
Despite the veteran cop’s criticisms of his chief, he emphasized he doesn’t want to “besmirch the man and I have nothing personal against him. I harbor no anger at him [...] But I have no confidence in the man at all. He is very dictatorial. He is not open to questions. It is his show.”
Brown, as the Daily Mail noted, has boasted about lowered rates of homicide and violent crime in Dallas in recent years — in fact, 2015 marked the 12th consecutive reduction in crime and a low homicide rate not seen since 1930. But Novello said Brown was just “grandstanding. He knows it is all about public perception.”
Rank-and-file officers, Novello explained, do a fantastic job and aren’t part of his critique of the department, but as for the problems directly affecting the force,
“I believe the public has a right to know. A real right to know and not just receive managed information.”
As for whether he had concerns about whistleblowing, Novello said being honest about what’s actually going on behind the scenes has greater importance than even his keeping the job. Were he to be terminated for speaking out, Novello said,
“I believe it would give me a platform to speak. Anything I speak about … I can prove everything I say.”
Quotas of varying types — whether by race, as what another whistleblower cop from the NYPD alleged and caught on tape, or by type of offense, as described by Novello — undoubtedly drive the issues of police violence and systemic racism through profiling. As The Free Thought Projectreported previously, Philando Castile — the black man shot by an officer in Falcon Heights, Minnesota — had been pulled over a whopping 52 times by officers prior to his killing. As the Washington Postnoted, these stops — all non-violent, non-criminal ‘offenses’ — had generated $6,588 in fines and fees for the city from one man.
Policing in the U.S. now revolves around revenue-generation, and until that changes — and these official and unofficial quota systems with it — the cycle of violence and resentment will inevitably continue.