Failure to Arrest Violent Criminal Not an Aberration in North Texas

The story is a big one.  On Father’s Day, June 20th, 2010, David Brown, Jr., son of Dallas Police Chief David Brown, Sr., shot and killed stranger Jeremy McMillian, who happened to be driving through his Lancaster, Texas apartment parking lot.  When Lancaster police responded, Lancaster Officer Craig Shaw was shot by Brown during the confrontation.


The sheer tragedy and drama of a police chief’s son being involved in a violent episode immediately spun off speculation casting aspersions on police procedure and whether Lancaster police had done Chief Brown a professional courtesy when they had failed to arrest Brown, Jr. seven hours earlier on that day, when Brown Jr.’s live-in girlfriend Misti Conaway, had made the frantic 911 call: “He’s got my kids locked in the apartment with him,” Conaway said. “He’s going crazy. He just hit me in my ribs and stuck me outside, and I don’t know what to do.  And he’s got a gun in there. I hid it from him.  He’s really scary right now. If he catches me out here on the phone, I don’t know what he’s doing with my kids up there.”


When Lancaster police answered Ms. Conaway’s 911 call, Brown, Jr.  denied there was anything going on, whereupon the police acknowledged on tape that they knew he was Chief Brown’s son and left without arresting him.  
 
Weeks earlier, on May 7th, a teacher at the school Ms. Conaway’s 10-year-old son attends, called police reporting the son had a black eye and that it was allegedly given to him by Brown, Jr.  Lancaster Police now say they were still investigating that incident.  
 
The blogs, newsrooms, and radio talk shows are all buzzing with anger that Lancaster police refused to arrest Brown, Jr. as an inside favor to Chief Brown.  They believe that failing to arrest a man who had just hit a woman and blackened the eye of a child would not have happened if Chief Brown hadn’t happened to be the violent offender’s father.  Many people are calling for resignations on both ends.   
 
I can understand why perhaps North Texas citizens who are exposed to only the normal amount of crime news, that being the really high-profile stories, could see this as a one-time aberration, made possible only by corruption and favors within the police departments.  As a crime hobbiest who follows crime news more avidly than most people, though, I can tell you that failing to arrest a man who has just beat up his girlfriend is not unusual for North Texas area law enforcement at all.  
 
I remember writing a letter to an incumbent Dallas D.A. a few years ago because a back-page story had come to my attention about a woman who had repeatedly reported being stalked and beat up by her boyfriend had filed a complaint, had a restraining order, continued to be battered, and the police had still not locked him up.  After a month of stalking, violence, and futile 911 calls, the woman was killed by the boyfriend.  The story was hardly a blip on the screen.  Many of these stories are never even reported by news media; and when they are, they apparently aren’t sensational enough to earn a spot on the nightly news.  Many people, including, sadly, those in law enforcement and justice, don’t realize that there are stalking laws in 48 states and that under the law, we do not have to wait until someone acts out violently to arrest them.  These laws need to be enforced, not ignored.
 
Now, this may seem to you that I am indicting the police departments, but that would be too simplistic, because I realize the constraints, budgetary and otherwise, that the departments are working under.  I have talked to Dallas police officers, and I know how thinly spread they are and what a great job they do with what they have to work with.  Being a crime hobbiest, I also know how overflowing our justice system and prisons are and that, according to Bureau of Crime Statistics, nationally, 30 percent of convicted felons never even do jail time.  This may put into perspective where other crimes fall on the priority meter.
 
So I am not laying this all on the heads of the police.  I think we have to spread the blame out a bit.  A few years ago, Dallas voters finally voted in a tax increase specifically to allocate more money to the police department.  A few months later, a report that this money had since been reallocated for other uses by the City was all but ignored in the press.  News media seems to report only the most sensational cases, and most of the hard-working citizenry doesn’t have time to keep up with everything that is going on anyway, or have extra money to throw into the tax kitty.
 
That being said, do I think our law-enforcement/justice machine really wants to prosecute men for domestic violence?  History tells me no.  I see many men somewhat loathe to prosecute other men for hitting a woman.  I see this supported by the age-old convention of not interfering because “everyone has domestic disputes.”  
 
I don’t think it much matters if Lancaster Police added “professional courtesy” to the long list of reasons why David Brown, Jr. wasn’t arrested, if not after the teacher’s call on May 7th, then at least on Father’s Day when he hit his girlfriend and was waving a gun around.  There is no excuse good enough to consistently sacrifice the safety of battered women and children.  Had Lancaster Police arrested Brown when they should have, which was twice in six weeks’ time, two innocent people would be alive today, one kid wouldn’t have seen their father shot and killed up close, and another wouldn’t have seen his mother beaten and terrorized as he himself had been beaten and terrorized before.  There is no excuse.  And it’s not just on the hands of Lancaster Police.  It’s a whole way of thinking that must change.

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