Dallas Pioneered Recent Efforts To Improve Police Training
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
It was just last fall that our next guest, Chuck Wexler, said we can learn from what Dallas is doing. Wexler was talking about the police training in Dallas. He's executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum in Washington, D.C. Chuck Wexler, thanks for joining us once again.
CHUCK WEXLER: Thank you, Robert.
SIEGEL: It sounds like this murderous response to police violence - if that's what it was - was aimed at a police force that's been a model for police restraint. Is that right?
WEXLER: No, that is right. I mean, the fact is that Dallas has responded in ways that are impressive. We had a meeting a month after Ferguson had happened, and David Brown, the chief there, was, you know, very articulate on all sorts of fronts about the importance of getting information out quickly, about the need to release the name of the officer, about sending officers into the community about being transparent - all of these things.
Ferguson wasn't lost on David Brown. I happen to know him pretty well. The city of Dallas hired us when they did the selection process for chief, so I've come to know him.
SIEGEL: Today, we heard the mayor of Dallas, Mike Rawlings, say that the Dallas Police Department in fact had the fewest police officer-related shootings than any large city in America. Dallas has a population about a million and a quarter. Is that true, by the way?
WEXLER: Well, I - you know, I don't have the numbers. It doesn't surprise me. I have looked at figures. I do know Dallas. And I do know the specific actions that they have taken to de-escalate situations. It doesn't just happen. You need to focus on all of those factors - training, policy, tactics and how you interact with the community.
SIEGEL: When you talk about de-escalation, in what ways is a Dallas police officer trained to not have a situation escalate that another police officer elsewhere might not be trained?
WEXLER: Well, interesting - they've had - you know, Dallas is like other cities. They have had several difficult situations which they've learned from. One involved the schizophrenic person that they were dealing with and afterwards I remember Chief Brown saying to me, we're now going to treat situations like that as barricaded persons, meaning rather than have one individual try to deal with the person, they would have four individuals. And then they would be using crisis intervention skills.
So it is - these are tough situations. But training, policy - all of those things matter, and importantly how you deal with the community afterwards - getting information out, talking to the community. And what they're also really good at in Dallas is using social media. If you follow what the events last night - what happened before the event in the march, you have the Dallas Police Department tweeting out pictures of them walking with demonstrators and just keeping people informed. So things matter, leadership matters, actions matter.
SIEGEL: To your knowledge, are other police departments following the good example of Dallas and is Chief Brown a model for others around the country these days?
WEXLER: Well, he certainly has been a leader on this. I remember, you know - he's been a leader in terms of getting information out, releasing information, releasing the names of officers, working with the public. Other departments we're starting to see changes across the country. Nassau County, Fairfax County a number of departments are moving in that direction.
The dilemma with 18,000 police departments is you can't get to all of them at once - 90 percent of those 18,000 or 50 officers or less. And that's the real challenge is, you know, how do you move? And part of this, quite frankly, is cultural, but yeah.
SIEGEL: Chuck Wexler, thanks for talking with us today.
WEXLER: Always a pleasure, Robert, thank you.
SIEGEL: Chuck Wexler is executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum in Washington, D.C. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.