The officer-involved shooting that led to the death of unarmed Temple resident Michael Dean identified issues in Temple that involve communication and trust.
Dealing with those issues led to an apology addressed Thursday from Mayor Tim Davis to Interim Police Chief Jim Tobin.
City Manager Brynn Myers admitted Thursday the Dean shooting was the first time in both hers and Tobin’s careers they “have been involved in an officer-involved shooting case where the police department couldn’t immediately determine what took place between the officer and the victim.”
The best interest of the public is why the city wanted the public to trust the results of any investigation and let the “facts lead the way,” Myers said.
The case was given to the Texas Rangers — an independent law enforcement agency — to find out those facts. Temple Police Officer Carmen DeCruz was charged with manslaughter in the case this week.
The delay in releasing any narrative in the death for more than two months after the Dec. 2 shooting led to criticism and several protests.
“While our actions throughout this investigation were intended to ensure fair and impartial justice, we know there is room for improvement and stronger communication,” Myers said. “We want to do better for our community in the future, and we hope to have that conversation with our residents moving forward.”
Currently, an audit is taking a look at how communication works now within the city. From that audit will come priorities for now and the future so changes will be successful. Recommendations from the audit will help identify policies and plans to help the city move into the future.
Regarding the search for a new police chief, Myers’ highest priority will be finding someone who is a “skilled communicator and who is passionate about fostering strong relationships and communication with our citizens, with members of the police department, as well as across the organization,” she said.
In a letter to the Telegram, Davis said he was sorry for accusing Tobin of lying to the City Council about what information was releasable to the public. Davis said his statement last week about the Dean case came out of his frustration with the situation.
“This statement was not fair to Chief Tobin and was an angry reaction to my frustration,” Davis said. “My comments to the Telegram were not those of a good leader under pressure. I failed the city, Chief Tobin and all the employees of the Temple Police Department.”
Part of Davis’ frustration stemmed from being told Temple Police didn’t provide the Telegram with one of two reports made Dec. 30 to the state attorney general’s office, even after the Telegram did a story Dec. 31 on one of the reports.
Tobin admitted at a Monday evening news conference that the department “just didn’t think of it” on releasing the second report, and he had not been aware the attorney general had made both reports an open record in 2016.
The second report included that the shooting resulted from an “altercation” — even though the arrest affidavit of DeCruz said the officer’s gun discharged when he was reaching into the vehicle to take Dean’s keys.
Asked about the use of “altercation,” Tobin said Monday that prior to submitting the report, “we checked with the (Texas) Ranger investigating this, because this is their investigation … and said, ‘This is what we’re putting into the narrative, do you agree with that?’ At that time … he said yes.”
The report can be modified, Tobin said.
Davis said his original statements came out of his perception of the situation and not necessarily what was the truth. After talking with the city’s police department and legal department, Davis said he now has a better grasp of the release of information guidelines and the coordination process between both departments.
While Davis admits the city’s communications system is not perfect, he believes the development of the communications program will make the process more streamlined.
“While I believe I identified some community concerns that need to be addressed, I understand that it was not the appropriate time or venue for me to bring them up,” Davis said. “I understand that my words offended the men and women of the Temple Police Department, and for that I am truly sorry. I have nothing but respect and admiration for the service that you provide, every day.”