Dallas police to withhold names of officers involved in shootings for 48 hours

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Dallas police officers involved in shootings will now be able to keep their names out of the news longer and return to the job more quickly.

In a nod to the Dallas Police Association, Chief David Brown has agreed to withhold officers’ names for 48 hours after a shooting incident.

The changes were announced in an email sent Monday to officers.

The police association had pushed for the department to keep the officers’ names out of the media after a shooting indefinitely. Brown initially pushed back, citing the department’s quick release of an officer’s name with helping to quell a riot near South Dallas two years ago.

Now, Brown said he decided to compromise and allow officers two days “to ensure the officers are safe at home” when their identities are revealed. He said the atmosphere of policing is charged these days and he has real safety concerns for officers if their names get out too soon.

“I still have the flexibility to release it immediately if I feel like it’s the most appropriate thing,” he said.

The department’s policy also called for officers involved in shootings to spend a month away from their regular jobs in temporary nonstressful roles, such as a community outreach position. Police commanders said they wanted to ensure that suppressed emotions didn’t manifest when the officers saw something else traumatic. Brown said he feared that bringing an officer back too soon would put both the officer and the public at risk.

But the chief said he consulted with doctors and all four police associations before making his decision to drop that policy this week. Still, no officer will be back on the street sooner than a work week after a shooting, he said. The actual time away from the officer’s regular job will be decided by medical professionals or at the officer’s request.

Dallas has had few controversial police incidents this year. But in McKinney, an officer who gained notoriety for his actions while breaking up a pool party received death threats, his attorney has said.

Brown said the 48-hour delay also allows officers to take care of social media pages — for instance, taking down their phone numbers or addresses — and notify their families what happened.

Dallas Police Association President Ron Pinkston, who had asked for a 10-day wait on the release of the names, said he doesn’t like that the policy is subject to the chief’s whims. But he is pleased that officers have more time.

“Is it better?” he said. “Yeah, it’s way better than it was.”

In the past, police often released officers’ names to the public the day of a shooting or the next day. In some other situations, such as the police headquarters shooting in June, the names slipped out days later.

Police have continued to post the names of all officers involved in shootings in an online database. They’ve won plaudits among federal officials for their efforts.

The updated policy was used Monday in a shooting involving police. In that case, a man was wounded by officers’ bullets after he allegedly drove his car over Senior Cpl. Ed Lujan.

Lujan survived, but he sustained multiple broken bones and a lacerated scalp. His name was not officially released by the department.

Twitter: @TristanHallman

http://www.dallasnews.com/news/crime/headlines/20151110-dallas-police-to-withhold-names-of-officers-involved-in-shootings-for-48-hours.ece