Members of the use-of-force ad hoc committee have received a lot of information over the past few weeks about the Denton Police Department’s policies, but one member said they haven’t had time to discuss what they’ve learned yet before they can make recommendations.
Committee members have been taking in a lot of information over the past few weeks on how the department functions in order to come up with recommendations for change by Sept. 15.
“I’m really struggling with how many weeks we have remaining in our charge and how little conversation we as a committee have been able to have to this point,” said Jaime Walker Blanton, the representative for people with disabilities.
The committee was given until mid-September to review the Denton Police Department’s policies, but City Manager Todd Hileman said Thursday that the September date isn’t a hard deadline. If needed, a few more meetings can be scheduled in order for members to communicate their thoughts.
“After listening to you tonight, it think we’ll start off the next meeting by introducing kind of the vision to deal with some of the policy issues that we’re hearing coming out of the committee,” Hileman said. “I think we also need to build in more time now for you to have those debates in those particular areas [of interest].”
Thursday’s meeting featured a presentation on state and Denton-specific police training, internal affairs and its process going through accreditation with the Texas Police Chief Association.
Training was a major talking point Thursday during a presentation from Deputy Chief Frank Padgett. Peace officers in Texas must receive 696 hours in basic training per Texas Commission on Law Enforcement guidelines for students to graduate from the academy, but the Denton Police Department requires 716 hours.
Further training and certification beyond basic training brings the total up to 1,570 hours, but Padgett said there can be more if supervisors feel a recruit is not proficient in a certain area.
John Baines, a Denton resident on the committee, wanted to know if officers are mandated to take a kind of refresher course if supervisors recognize there’s a need. He noted that Derek Chauvin, the former officer who killed George Floyd on duty in Minneapolis, had been reprimanded by the Minneapolis Police Department several times.
“If a supervisor recognizes any deficiency, they can send someone to training any time they want,” Padgett said. “I don’t know how regularly [that happens]. I get training requests all the time. … I know that if a supervisor does recognize that deficiency, or if we have any disciplinary action, it will have a training component to it.”
Mental health was a talking point again Thursday. A meeting in late July focused on mental health and how officers would respond to situations that have a mental health aspect. Committee members on Thursday were wondering about officer mental health.
Kamyon Conner, a representative for the LGBTQ community, said in social workers’ careers, they learn early on about self-care, so she wanted to know what was available for the Denton Police Department and if anything is mandatory.
Dixon said the department restarted the Peer Support Team about a year ago and that the team has been called to other jurisdictions in North Texas who haven’t yet embraced self-care for officers. After traumatic calls, it’s mandatory for Denton officers to go to a critical incident debriefing, he said.
“Then we open it up for them to have optional follow-up counseling or sessions if they need it after that,” Dixon said. “What I don’t want is for us to lose someone because we didn’t take care of them.”
Denton residents can submit comments online at cityofdenton.com for the committee’s next meeting on Aug. 20 where public input is being requested. The committee will meet virtually at 6 p.m.