DALLAS (AP) — Dallas police officers involved in shootings must wait at least 72 hours before making a statement to investigators under new guidelines following the firing of an officer who shot a mentally ill man last month.
The intention of the new department policy, introduced by Police Chief David Brown, is to allow an officer to rest before recounting a traumatic event, according to The Dallas Morning News (http://dallasne.ws/17W5y3r ).
Officers previously gave statements within hours of a shooting. Brown says a premature statement can be clouded by the emotion that comes either with an officer firing on another person or witnessing such an episode. The policy change also will give officers time to review video or other material relating to a shooting.
Brown says it took him two or three days before he accurately recalled the details of an incident in which someone shot at him.
A behavior consultant for law enforcement agencies agrees with the change, saying studies reveal officers need rest before they can accurately recount traumatic events.
"They are not passive observers watching something from an easy chair," Alexis Artwohl told the paper. "They are at the scene where life-and-death decisions are being made, and they're an integral part of it."
The revised policy was prompted by the Oct. 14 shooting of Bobby Gerald Bennett.
An initial police report said officer Cardan Spencer shot Bennett after the 52-year-old lunged at him and another officer with a knife. But video captured by a neighbor's surveillance camera showed Bennett didn't appear to move toward the officers before he was shot and crumpled to the ground.
Brown fired Spencer and a 15-day suspension was issued to his partner, Christopher Watson. Investigators found Watson was untruthful in a sworn statement and violated police procedure.
Prosecutors have not yet presented an aggravated assault case against Spencer to a grand jury.
Bennett, who suffers from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, survived the shooting and is recovering.
Don Tittle, an attorney for Bennett, called the policy change "maddening."
He told the Morning News that if officers are given time, evidence and lawyers, then their statements will become more similar and justify a shooting.
"This whole memory claim, that somehow because of the stressful situation, their memories are faulty — that may be true," Tittle said. "But why is it that their memories are always faulty in a way that covers for another police officer?"
Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com