Dallas Cops Disciplined Over Vehicle Pursuit

By Tanya Eiserer
The Dallas Morning News

More than a dozen Dallas police officers, including a supervisor, have been disciplined over a lengthy May 2009 high-speed chase of carjacking suspects during rush-hour traffic.

Punishments range from two five-day suspensions to the recommendation that two officers be demoted and minor discipline such as written counseling.

An internal investigation earlier concluded that numerous officers violated the department’s pursuit or emergency driving policies while heading to the chase, while actively involved in it, or while following it.

Those violations included barreling through school zones and residential areas at high speeds, running up on sidewalks, failing to obey traffic control devices and going the wrong way on one-way streets.

“Operating a motor vehicle – a four-ton police car – in that manner was reckless,” said Assistant Police Chief Floyd Simpson, who supervises the city’s seven patrol stations.

The officers who received written reprimands and suspensions can appeal the discipline.

“Yet again the department has taken over a year to second-guess the split-second decisions of hard-working officers pursuing a car full of aggravated robbery suspects,” said Chris Livingston, an attorney representing several of the officers. He said the decision sends a “message that they want officers to let felons go.”

Police Department policy allows officers to chase in situations like this one, but Simpson said the department wants officers to do it in a safe manner.

“That doesn’t mean disregard everything and drive in a reckless manner,” he said. “It’s got to be under control.”

The pursuit began shortly after 4 p.m. May 11, 2009, after an officer spotted a speeding vehicle pass him in the 4300 block of West Illinois Avenue. A check of the vehicle tags showed that it had been stolen during an aggravated robbery about two weeks earlier.

The 23-minute pursuit stretched from Dallas into Grand Prairie and then back to Dallas. In-car video shows children on the sidewalks as a patrol car races through a school zone.

It ended with four men being taken into custody.

The Dallas Police Department’s chase policy, among the most restrictive in the nation, only allows officers to chase those suspected of violent felonies and has long been controversial among officers. Police Chief David Brown, who took command this month, has said that he is considering easing some elements of his predecessor’s policy.

AT A GLANCE Disciplinary action

• Police Officer Jerry Hornback, a nearly five-year veteran, drove on sidewalks, through an active school zone at 63 mph and on the inside shoulder of Interstate 30. His top speed on a city street was 81 mph and on the freeway was 117 mph, the highest speed recorded among all the officers. Hornback also pursued the vehicle the wrong way down a one-way street. Hornback told investigators that he behaved as he did because he believed another officer’s life might be in danger. Discipline: Five-day suspension

• Senior Cpl. Lucio Cano, an almost nine-year veteran, ran several stop signs, drove on the shoulder of the interstate, pursued the suspect vehicle the wrong way on a one-way street and left the boundaries of his patrol division. His top speed on Interstate 30 was 105 mph and his top speed on a city roadway was 79 mph.

Discipline: Five-day suspension

• Senior Cpl. Mohammad Atique, a 15-year-veteran, became involved in the chase without authorization, drove at excessive speeds and left his patrol division.

Discipline: Recommended for demotion based on an extensive disciplinary history.

• Senior Cpl. Rafael Esquivel, an 18-year-veteran, allowed a rookie officer to drive at excessive speeds, run stop signs and red lights and drive left of center around traffic.

Discipline: Recommended for demotion based on his disciplinary history.

• Police Officer Pedro Trujillano, an almost four-year veteran, ran several red lights and stop signs, drove at excessive speeds and left his patrol division.

Discipline: Three-day suspension

• Senior Cpl. Steven Brown, a nearly nine-year veteran, drove at excessive speeds, ran several stops signs and left his patrol division.

Discipline: One-day suspension

• Police Officer Kevin Taylor, a three-year-veteran, drove at high speeds through school zones, on the freeway and on a city roadway. His top speed was 115 mph on the freeway. Discipline: Three-day suspension

• Lt. Daniel Gallegos, a nearly 20-year veteran, violated department policy by activating the emergency lights on his unmarked vehicle, disregarding traffic control devices, and driving left of center in the wrong lane to pass vehicles.

Discipline: Written reprimand

• Six other officers received written reprimands and several others received written counseling. Five officers received no discipline and the cases of three others have been sent back to internal affairs for additional investigation.


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