DeSoto Discusses Racial Tensions With Citizens

DeSoto citizen oversight board
DeSoto Police Chief Joseph Costa

DeSoto Making a PACT with Citizens

DeSoto held a special Townhall Discussion on Tuesday evening to discuss how the DeSoto Police Department and community members could work together to build stronger relations. The P.A.C.T. (Police, And Community Together) meeting was well attended with citizens meeting with Police Chief Joseph Costa, Sgt Williams, and Mayor Curtistene McCowan and honest, civil interchanges of information shared by all. The DeSoto Police Clergy Community Chairman began the meeting with a prayer and an 8:46 moments of silence in honor of George Floyd.

Mayor McCowan introduced Chief Costa who spent the next hour and a half discussing how they might work together in the future as well as discussing a recent controversial arrest made by DeSoto Police Officers.

“Recent national events have revealed some very sad, ugly, and enduring inequities in American society sparking anxiety, frustration and outrage,” Mayor McCowan began. “Unfortunately there are some people in the world that refuse to recognize that black lives matter.”

“We stand tonight to reaffirm that the City of DeSoto, Texas, an an All-American City, does not and will not tolerate racism, prejudice, hatred and violence in any form. City Manager Brandon Wright, Police Chief Joe Costa and I have had discussions about steps we will be taking in terms of reviewing and improving DeSoto’s policies and procedures of law enforcement.”

Police Department & Community Must Build Relationship On Trust

Mayor McCowan then introduced City Manager Brandon Wright. “There is an important connection between a city and it’s police department,” Mr. Wright began. “It must be built on trust. It must be built on respect …and it must be built on the common good.”

“I am thankful that we have a man of character, Chief Costa, who is our police chief,” Wright continued. “We are here to listen. We are here to hear your feedback and we are here to create change.”

Chief Costa introduced himself and Sgt Williams, over the internal affairs department.

“What can we do better as a police department? What do you want in your police department? I want the community to understand what we do as a department and what policies we have.”

Costa continued by emphasizing a need to work together with citizens for the benefit of all. “What do we do good? What do we do not so good? What can we do that would be better?”

Although there are numerous meetings throughout the year, Costa noted he, the department, the council and the mayor wanted this to be different. He said they came up with the connotation, “Let’s call it a Pact. P.A.C.T., he said, would mean the police and the citizens would have a pact that they would trust one another and this would be a meeting to establish a new beginning of that trust.”

What About The Recent Arrest Being Discussed on FB?

“Recently there was a video on FB, a snippet of which went viral about an event that took place on June third. Several officers were involved in an arrest,” Costa told the audience. He said review of the entire videos are reviewed up through the chain of command, all the way through him and Sgt. Williams. “We have to make sure that everyone is treated right”

Costa continued that the videos were reviewed and released Tuesday, June 9. Videos of the car camera and the body cameras of all the officers were reviewed.

“I encourage you to watch the entire incident, and not just one or two portions of it,” he said. “Tonight is not to discuss all of that because we could get into all night possibly (Costa was not completely right in that assessment because much of the hour and a half meeting did discuss it, but a lot of other valuable ground was covered as well). He continued that a block of time between noon and 4 pm on Thursday was being set aside for everyone who might want to come and review the video, although it is also available on the city’s website. To attend Thursday, Costa said to call his executive assistant, Linda Sharp, at 469-658-3002.

DeSoto Police Department Could Be a Model For Other Cities

Attorney Billy Clark, representing the man involved in the referenced incident, was the first person to speak. He said there were some things that could have been done differently in the particular incident and that he had spoken with the Chief already. He said he was thankful that it did not end in a death. “If DeSoto continues to do what they say they are going to do, they could be a model for other cities for policing.”

Chief Costa responded to Mr. Clark and to numerous speakers throughout the evening, that he is aware that there are always times the department could do better in their interactions.

“We could be better. We do the best we can. Since I have been here we have terminated officers for lying. We’re a civil service department. I work very hard in making sure if someone needs to be disciplined, they are. We have been successful in disciplining lying since I have been here.”

“Our department is a good department. We have a lot of good officers. While I am here, I will always do what is right. I will do the best I can in decisions I make. All we can do is make it better here …. I wish I could change Minneapolis and other departments, but we have to do what is best for DeSoto citizens.”

Citizens Suggest A Citizen Oversight Board

Janice Scott, an alumni of DeSoto Citizens Police Academy related “I’ve been stopped. What is the protocol for officers in squad car? Am I to grab my license, insurance … put my hands on the wheel?”

“An officer would like to see hands on the steering wheel when we approach the vehicle,” Costa replied. You should search for them after you tell the officer that is what you need to do.

The next lady said she appreciated that Costa marched with protesters on Saturday and knew his heart was in the right place. She remembered an instance when an officer followed her when she turned down on Silver Creek. She said there needs to be more transparency in internal affairs. And, she applauded the concept of a Citizens Oversight board.

Costa replied there is an annual report every year on crimes and investigations. We will put policies online as well he said in a continuing review policy.

Police Chief Costa Asks DeSoto To Be More Involved

“We’ve got 54,000 people in this city,” Costa said. “We need more input from more people. Usually only a handful of people come out and talk to us. We need more involvement … I’m telling you to come on out. I’m in the community every day. It’s about us building that trust together, the community and the police. We have a citizens police academy. We should be turning people away but we are not.”

There are 79 police officer positions. Currently, 69 of those positions are filled. In the last police academy, he said there were more African Americans than white. “In fact, the number of Hispanics was second,” he said. There are currently 35 White, 18 Black, 14 Hispanic, 1 Asian, and one of more than one race.”

The meeting lasted over an hour and a half with over 30 people talking. The complete video of the meeting is available on Facebook through both Focus Daily News, a posting by Kathy Jones of the City the City of DeSoto website. We urge everyone interested to visit those sites to listen to the complete broadcast.

Sgt Williams told attendees “If you have question about any officer or officers, call me 469-658-3030. If you have an example where you believe you were followed around call me … “I don’t want anyone leaving this room thinking they can’t get an answer.”

A Police Advisory Board

Chief Costa closed saying he appreciates all the suggestions and will work to create a Police Advisory Board, something that was widely applauded by many throughout the meeting. “I Appreciate everyone coming out tonight. I take this seriously. It’s not just words. We walk the walk.”

Mayor McCowan thanked Chief Costa, CM Wright Sgt Williams and citizens for coming. “This is not the end of us reaching out to you. We want you to remain engaged. We thank you for your time and input. God Bless You!”