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Dallas Council Public Safety Chair: City Manager's Office & Interim Police Chief Unaware Internal Memo Released

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - The Chair of the Dallas City Council's Public Safety Committee, Jennifer Gates said Monday that an internal Dallas Police Department memo caught not only Mayor Eric Johnson and Council Members off guard, but the Assistant City Manager who oversees Public Safety, Jon Fortune and interim Police Chief Lonzo Anderson.

"It's my understanding that the city manager as well as the interim police chief did not know it was going to be going out. So, you know, first, I was concerned just how it got out there," said Gates.

A city spokeswoman said Monday that Fortune was unavailable to discuss the memo, which has since been rescinded.

The internal memo, dated January 1 and sent to 911 call center staffers, wasn't addressed to anyone specifically or signed.

It said the city's police officers would no longer be dispatched to priority four offenses, including attempted vehicle theft, breaking into a motor vehicle, and interference with child custody.

After the memo appeared on social media over the weekend, it attracted harsh criticism from Governor Greg Abbott.

He tweeted, "We won't allow this California style lawlessness in Texas. Everyone in our state deserves to be safe from crime."

Dallas PD issued a statement saying in part, "Although conversations have been held on this topic, the memorandum was sent prematurely. The department is still in the evaluation phase on this item."

Mayor Eric Johnson said in a statement, "Far too frequently, this is how things go at City Hall. Someone in the bureaucracy makes a major decision, behind closed doors, that affects your lives. And the decision-makers don't notify or consult with the City Council in an open meeting."

Mike Mata, President of the Dallas Police Association said, "I was quite a bit surprised."

When asked who wrote the memo and who sent it, Mata replied, "That's a good question. I'm not really sure. Nothing leaves the sixth floor of DPD Headquarters without a signature block. So obviously, it was a draft and it wasn't supposed to be released."

For months now, residents have been able to file reports of lower priority concerns online, but they can still request that an officer responds.

Mata said, "We will respond if you're requesting an officer to be there. We're just giving you other options to handle these calls because unfortunately some of these calls will wait an hour, two hours, three hours for an officer to respond."

Gates said, "When an officer is needed, we need to make sure that an officer is dispatched. And we also need to make sure that by no means are we taking any criminal activity lightly."

How to respond to lower priority calls came up in a recent city efficiency study.

The Council's Public Safety Committee will be briefed on the issue Monday afternoon, January 11th.

Gates said this can not happen again, and that any changes to department policy need to be reviewed by incoming Chief, Eddie Garcia, who begins next month.

"When you have changes of this magnitude, the Mayor and Council have got to know and we've got to have thorough discussion in the Public Safety Committee for the transparency to the public."

Follow Jack on Twitter & Facebook: @cbs11jack


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