DeSoto Chief Costa Discusses Police Transparency
As a result of the June meeting on police transparency, DeSoto Police Chief Joe Costa updated the City Council on moves recommended to improve relations with citizens going forward. He began with the Police Advisory Committee recommendation.
“The purpose of the CPAC (Citizens Police Advisory Committee) will be to work together with the Chief of Police, or designee, and the Internal Affairs Sergeant, for a more transparent Police Department. The Committee will be involved in the review and decision making process of improving department policies and procedures to continue to foster community trust and confidence in their Police Department.”
“The committee will have a total of eleven members,” Chief Costa began. “Each City Council member will have one appointee for a total of seven. DPAC will have two appointees and we hope that Desoto ISD will appoint two students from the Criminal Justice class.”
The committee will be tasked with meeting monthly and becoming familiar with the policies and procedures of the police department. They will have the ability to gather, evaluate and discuss all information relative to specific use of force incidents. Additionally, they’ll have the ability to review and discuss specific Department policies, Procedures and Processes as allowed by law and rule of evidence. Through review and discussions, they will identify issues suitable for further review by City Administration and the City Council. CPAC will make recommendations for change to the Chief of Police and the City Council, as needed, related to the Department’s Administrative Directives, Policies, Procedures and Processes.
The policies Chief Costa pointed to as most relevant in this are:
- the use of force incident response
- The use of force by detention officers
- deployment of less lethal and non-lethal force
- the use of department issued digital audio/video recorder
- biased based profiling
- rapid deployment and
- pursuit driving
Creating A Mental Health Unit
“We are handling one to two calls per day that involve mentally ill people,” Lt. Franks told Council. “We are taking and hospitalizing about one person per day who is having an imminent mental health emergency where they or others are in immediate danger unless they are taken in for treatment.”
She proposed a regional concept with Cedar Hill and Duncanville being partners with DeSoto. The unit would include a unit coordinator working with a licensed master social worker, a full-time police officer and full-time paramedic and a master’s level intern. She emphasized all situations are different. Thus, different people need to be approached in different ways, which is why the unit needs people with unique levels of expertise to address those situations.
In both the regional and local models, each participating agency would provide staffing resources with grant funds to provide physical resources.
Chief Costa recommends the next step is to consider approval of the Citizens Police Advisory Committee at the July 21 Council meeting. He also proposes they consider a policy requiring transparency and community input for changes to certain police department administrative directives. Staff will continue exploring a regional Mental Health Unit model while beginning to provide resources in the upcoming budget year.
DeSoto Arts Commission Eyes Black Lives Matter Support
Kathy Jones then presented the Arts Commission position. She said the commission was very excited about working on a proposal to support Black Lives Matter. They discussed a lighting display in a prominent location. The Commission is working on technology and art such as commissioning an artist to design banners at city entrances. They felt that conveying a message of healing is very important. Timing is good in that the commission is working on an Arts Master Plan.
Ms. Jones said the commission is working with a consultant. They said, “We recognize that the current Black Lives Matter movement is generating high interest and to emphasize civic support. We certainly agree that this is a game-changing opportunity, especially for cities who already have public art programs and a process to commission art and artists. As a part of a plan for discovering a cultural plan for DeSoto we have heard that public art is an area with strong interest … Our goal then is to develop an open, transparent participatory process that can help support the inquiry from Council members around art around a possible Black Lives Matter mural as well as other public art projects.”