Collin County Politics: Issues in Policing

July 28, 2021

Commissioners Court: As the commissioners prepare for their upcoming budget discussions, this meeting was taken up by the Lifepath Budget Report (which was brief) and by a presentation on law enforcement compensation (which took over 3 hours). While law enforcement is essential, it should not be vastly more important than our mental health entity. Yet this seems to be the case. I shouldn’t be surprised – after all, every single commissioner is a Republican and we all know how little they value mental health – but you’d think they’d at least try for a little balance.

The commissioners seemed perfectly fine with Lifepath serving an increasing number of patients with the same amount of money they’ve been given. Since the pandemic, there’s been an increase in substance abuse, psychiatric hospitalization, opioid services (the county spent $932,000 on this last year), and Early Childhood Intervention testing. In order to adequately serve their patients, Lifepath expanded Telehealth, increased cybersecurity, and are trying to get more state money (because you know the county won’t be forthcoming even though we have over $72 million in funds just laying around) for hospital referrals.

The commissioners responded to this information fairly indifferently with minimal questions or discussion. Yet they agonized over our low retention rate for law enforcement and patted themselves on the backs for the excellent perks they offer (e.g., better healthcare insurance than Dallas County). I wonder if Lifepath employees – who have more education and training – also receive perks given to law enforcement, like tuition assistance and a one-time check to thank longer-term employees for their service. I hope so but I doubt it.

These people need to wake up to the real world. One of the reasons why the detention center is so problematic is because officers are dealing with people having mental health problems and they’re not adequately trained to handle them. If the commissioners put more money toward mental health services on the front end, then they probably wouldn’t have to increase funding to law enforcement on the back end. That would be a win for everyone.

Richardson City Council: During Public Comments on April 19th, 2021, Richardson Police Officer Kayla Walker blew the whistle on an illegal ticket quota system taking place in Richardson PD. The city announced an independent investigation and hired a law firm in Fort Worth, one that specializes in municipal government and serves as City Attorneys for 48 cities. The meeting on July 22nd was held to announce and discuss the findings of that investigation.

Unfortunately, there was only one purpose for this investigation: to determine if Richardson PD was in violation of the Texas Transportation Code 720.002. After interviewing 7 officers total, including top leadership, the investigation concluded there was no violation. However, a number of disturbing issues were mentioned. There are weekly reviews conducted to keep track of officers’ metrics, including the number of traffic stops, citations, and arrests an officer makes. Sector averages are posted for all to see and goals can change depending on the shift.

These metrics are used by almost all police departments and often determine perks, like (as in Richardson) whether officers can work their desired shift with their desired supervisor. This can lead to competition between officers within the same shift. Some officers are better at meeting metrics because they believe this is what their job is. In fact, officers who perform at 85% or higher on this system are called Level 1 officers. Dandy. Who wouldn’t want to be labeled as Level 1? Yet this is deeply troubling since their priorities should be public safety and public service. Chief Gary Tittle agreed there isn’t any illegal activity happening but will nevertheless implement changes. The Department will now conduct quarterly productivity reviews on officers and the criteria will be consistent across the department.

While some city council members were sympathetic to Officer Walker, others were not. It must’ve taken a lot of courage to whistleblow about department policies and I worry about her. Officer Walker refused to be interviewed for the investigation, so I wonder how her fellow officers are treating her. None of the council members mentioned concern for her mental well-being and career trajectory although it was said that she wouldn’t face retaliation, at least officially. Who knows what will happen off the record. All council members agreed to put the issue to rest.

This is disappointing. They could’ve broadened the scope of the investigation to include how the practice of encouraging officers to find ways to “increase productivity” hurts the community. It may explain why cases like Neco Bonham’s occurred. Bonham was pulled over by Officer Parker Winn in 2018. When Winn asked Bonham to step out of the vehicle, Bonham asked why. Winn later said he had a headlight, back right brake light, and license plate light out but bodycam footage refuted that. Regardless, Winn proceeded to escalate the situation into a physical assault on Bonham. He dragged him out of the car, tased him, and then took him to jail where Bonham suffered more violence at the hands of other officers. Officer Winn later said he didn’t know he was supposed to de-escalate unless it was a mental health crisis. Weird.

Richardson City Council members had an opportunity to do some much-needed reform within the police department but instead let it go on a technicality. We need to overhaul our system of policing to make it better for everyone. I just wish our local politicians had the kind of courage and vision that’s needed to do so.

Comments 1

  1. Thanks for letting us know about problems throughout Collin County. And I second your concern about Officer Walker. She’s brave for her whistleblower report.

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