At the first public meeting of Dallas’s newly formed Community Police Oversight Board earlier this week, dozens of residents who came to share their concerns about law enforcement were surprised to learn the board had no intention of letting anyone from the community actually make a comment. And at least one officer wearing the symbol of a murderous comic book vigilante was there to help silence them.
The formation of the new board comes at a time when Dallas Police Chief U. Reneé Hall and her department are under increased public scrutiny. This month saw both the conviction of former police officer Amber Guyger for murdering Botham Jean, and the subsequent killing of Joshua Brown, a key witness who testified against Guyger. Amid questions about the circumstances of Brown’s death, Dallas police have claimed that the man was shot in front of his apartment building during a drug deal gone wrong and insisted that the department was not responsible.
Suffice it to say that tensions are running high between the police and Dallas residents who don’t believe officers are really protecting the community, which is why the oversight board’s assumption that people wouldn’t have something to say was so strange. Having no public comment period on the agenda, several board members moved to end the meeting without hearing from the public, KXAS-TV reports.
Rather than being silenced, a number of activists took it upon themselves to step up to the podium to speak their peace, and as some people began to shout, Hall called on the officers in attendance to clear the room, resulting in a number of physical altercations.
While the optics of siccing police officers on concerned citizens—who, to be clear, were attempting to speak at a meeting about community oversight over the police—are bad enough, in at least one video, an officer can be seen wearing a Dallas PD baseball cap with Marvel Comics’ Punisher logo emblazoned on the back.
Cops from cities across the country have embraced the Punisher’s iconography as their unofficial (and certainly unlicensed) symbol, meant to represent the “thin blue line” ideology used to justify all kinds of violations of basic human rights committed by police in the name of law enforcement. Some officers fancy themselves to be misunderstood heroes like Frank Castle, which is particularly alarming considering that the Punisher is a murderer who actual superheroes frequently make an effort not to be like (for rather obvious reasons).
When io9 reached out to the Dallas PD for comment about the department’s policy regarding officers sporting unapproved imagery on their work uniforms, a representative from the department told us that the “Internal Affairs Unit is actively investigating this incident as a violation of the uniform policy, General Order 802.1.”
In addition to the fact that multiple people on social media were able to identify the logo on the officer’s hat, another reason that police might be “actively investigating this incident” is that the logo seems to be sewn onto an official piece of Dallas PD-branded clothing, raising questions about whether the officer had it custom-made, or whether it’s something multiple officers on the force wear.
Eventually, things settled down enough at the community oversight board meeting that community members were actually given a chance to speak. However, it’s easy to understand why the entire ordeal might have left more than a few people questioning whether the department is sincerely committed to properly enforcing justice and letting the community’s voice be heard. We will update this story as we learn more.
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