Since the police shooting death of an unarmed black male, O’Shae Terry, during a traffic violation stop in September of last year, I have previously written a couple of articles in this venue critical of the Arlington Police Department’s Use of Force policy and procedure, and the handling of the internal investigation. In fact, as of this writing the police department’s administrative investigation is yet to be completed.
This month’s article is a continuing
investigative and commentary effort to illuminate policy deficiencies in the Arlington Police Department. It is hope that public awareness of the police department’s policies and the lack thereof will serve as a starting point towards improving transparency and accountability.
According to local news reports, toxicology reports of Terry were ordered but have not yet released. This triggered my acute curiosity with the following questions. Was the police officer involved in the shooting death of Terry underwent a drug/alcohol test following the shooting? How does the public know for sure if the police officer’s split-second judgment wasn’t impaired? After all don’t the public and the police department want a “fair and thorough investigation”?
In my quest to obtain policy-based answers to the aforementioned questions, l made a Freedom of Information request to the City of Arlington for a copy of the of Arlington Police Department’s Drug & Alcohol Testing Workplace Program and Policy relative to mandatory testing following a police officer’s discharge of a firearm that results in a loss of life or serious bodily injury.
The City of Arlington responded with a 26-page document, “Drug and Alcohol Program” which is a part of the City of Arlington, Texas Personnel Manual. After reviewing said document, no section outlining mandatory drug/alcohol testing following a police officer’s discharge of a firearm that results in a loss of life or serious bodily injury was found in the policy document. Or maybe it was overlooked. However, a policy section entitled, “Discretionary Testing of Employee” was cited on section 5, page 13 of said policy. Of significant interest was the following provision: “The City may require (emphasis added) drug and/or alcohol tests of employees b. Those who are allegedly involved in excessive use of force. c. Those whose discharge of a firearm results in bodily injury, property damage, or violation of department general orders...”
It is not known if the officer involved in the shooting death of O’Shae Terry was subjected to a drug/alcohol test. What is known is that no police or city policy mandating such a test was found.
Advocates of governmental transparency and accountability are perplexed to say the least by the utter lack of a mandatory drug/alcohol testing following
a police officer’s discharge of a firearm that results in a loss of life or serious bodily injury. This is absolutely unacceptable, and the police leadership needs to be held accountable for apparently condoning a police culture that maintains and promotes an insensitive and supremacy mindset that police officers can do no wrong. And then have the audacity to say that a “fair and thorough investigation” was conducted following a police shooting that resulted in the loss of human life.
At the end of the day, “In God We Trust”, but all others are investigated. And yes, including the police. Can the residents of Arlington trust that their police can police themselves? This article may have shed some light to that answer.