DPD’s David Brown tells LGBT group that community should have been notified of May 15 hate crime immediately, asks for input on improving communication
Making his first appearance before an LGBT group, new Dallas Police Chief David Brown said he was "disappointed" in the department’s delay in classifying a recent aggravated robbery in Oak Lawn as an anti-gay hate crime.
Brown spoke Tuesday, May 25, during the regular monthly meeting of Dallas’ LGBT LULAC chapter, at Havana on Cedar Springs Road.
The appearance came just a few blocks from where — and 10 days after — two clubgoers were brutally attacked by four suspects yelling gay slurs and wielding baseball bats in the 2700 block of Throckmorton Street.
The incident occurred in the early morning hours of Saturday, May 15. And DPD has been criticized for failing to classify it as an anti-gay hate crime — or notify the public about it — until the following Monday.
"What I want to say about that is that I was pleased with our response immediately — which, we increased patrols immediately, just based on an aggravated robbery," Brown said. "I was disappointed in the delay in classifying it as a hate crime. It was two days later."
Brown asked those who attended the LULAC meeting for input on improving communication between DPD and the LGBT community.
"I want to reach out to every community in Dallas, and make it as important as any," he said. "We want to treat everyone fairly. We want to apply the laws evenly across this city. … We want to improve in any way possible. That doesn’t mean we won’t make mistakes, but with a good relationship we can move past mistakes more readily."
Brown said in response to the hate crime, the department’s LGBT liaison officer, Laura Martin, has been added to a DPD command staff e-mail list, so she’ll be notified about major incidents immediately.
"Laura can chime in if she gets that e-mail and start talking to the community right away," Brown said.
Asked specifically about the reasons for the delay by an audience member, Brown explained that an incident can be classified as an anti-gay hate crime in one of two ways: by responding officers in their initial reports or by investigators who later review them.
"The officers didn’t recognize some of the elements, the language being used, and so it didn’t get assigned until the detective read the offense on Monday and deemed it a hate crime," Brown said.
"What that delay does is, we could have and should have notified the community of this offense occurring, so they can be more aware on that Saturday night. A similar incident could have happened," Brown said.
"It didn’t, thank God, but it could have happened, and those same people could have been roaming around. … We want to notify the community as soon as we can to be on the lookout for these suspects."
There have been no arrests in the hate crime, and Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse, a spokesman for DPD, said Thursday, June 4, that detectives have exhausted all tips and leads.
"There is no video of the offense, all witnesses have been talked to," Janse said. "The stolen cell phone has not been used, nor have the stolen credit cards."
Janse confirmed that the FBI has requested a police report on the incident. Under a federal hate crimes law passed in October, the FBI can assist local authorities with investigations into hate crimes based on sexual orientation.
The FBI can also intervene if local authorities fail to properly investigate or prosecute hate crimes.
"FBI did ask that we send the offense report to them," Janse said. "You would have to talk to them about what they are doing with it."
Mark White, a spokesman for the FBI’s Dallas office, would not confirm or deny whether the agency is investigating the incident. White suggested that someone at the FBI or the Department of Justice saw media reports about the hate crime and simply wanted more information.
"The fact that we’ve sought from a law enforcement agency a copy of a report would not be an unusual process for us," White said.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 04, 2010.