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Texas community questions police use of force and disrespect at a pool party

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Tension and frustration remain high in a Texas town tonight, three days after a police officer threw down an unarmed girl. The incident happened after a phone call complaining about a pool party, but gained national attention because of video showing the police response.

    William Brangham picks up the story.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    It's the video sending ripples of outrage across this Dallas suburb and the wider world. The footage shows a white policeman pushing down a black girl in a swimsuit, and then pointing his gun at other black teens who seems to come to her aid. It happened Friday evening after a disturbance at a neighborhood pool party. Someone called the police, and 12 officers showed up.

  • Police Chief Greg Conley:

  • GREG CONLEY, Chief, McKinney Police Department:

    Upon arrival, officers were confronted by a large group of people. Private security and homeowners were pointing out juveniles who were creating the disturbance, fighting and refusing to leave.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    Conley says the youths did not live in the area and didn't have permission to be there. Protest leaders say they did have permission.

    The policeman highlighted in the video, identified as Corporal Eric Casebolt, is now on administrative leave. Some in the neighborhood, like Sean Toon, say they support his actions. Toon even brought a sign to the pool on Sunday to make his point.

  • SEAN TOON:

    Watching 30 seconds or seven minutes of a clip, it doesn't tell the whole story. I think he did what he thought he had to do to control the situation.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    But one of the girls who organized the party says the use of force was over the top.

  • TATIANA RHODES:

    He was just aggressive for no reason at all. It was horrible. Everything could have been solved entirely way better than what it was. I mean, there were other officers that were actually nice to people.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    Today, community leaders and parents of some of the kids who attended the party called for Casebolt to be fired.

  • JAHI ADISA BAKARI:

    The fact of the matter, this officer recklessly attacked this young lady who was following his instructions to leave. That wasn't acceptable enough for him.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    And McKinney's mayor, Brian Loughmiller, issued a statement saying he's — quote — "disturbed and concerned by what the video shows."

    A protest rally is planned this evening.

    To discuss this in greater context, I'm joined now by Leona Allen, deputy managing editor of The Dallas Morning News, who has covered the area around McKinney.

    Leona Allen, thank you for joining us.

  • LEONA ALLEN, The Dallas Morning News:

    Thank you.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    I wonder if you could start off by tell me, just what is McKinney? What is the community like where all of this took place?

  • LEONA ALLEN:

    Sure.

    McKinney is a suburb north of Dallas. It has, you know, majority white, about 75 percent, and the population is about 10 percent black, but it's a superb in Collin County, which is a high-growth area of the Dallas area.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    Has this community had a history of racial tension? It's not necessarily clear that the police officer's actions were driven by race, but is this something you found surprising that happened in this community?

  • LEONA ALLEN:

    Not totally surprised.

    I have been in this business about 30 years now, and nothing surprises me anymore. But McKinney had, in 2004, an incident in which there was a shooting where four people were killed and the police actions were called into question then by the Department of Justice, the way they handled the case and handled the community afterwards. So it wasn't a total surprise.

    There have been some history of racial tensions there, but that was about 11 years ago.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    That wasn't a police shooting one, was it?

  • LEONA ALLEN:

    No. No. That was a shooting in an apartment complex on the East Side. But how police handled the arrest and the community afterwards is what was being questioned by the Justice Department.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    There were also some people who watched this video who said this, to them, was evidence that the police had done the right thing. And then you had people on the opposite saying the exact opposite.

    How do you explain that chasm?

  • LEONA ALLEN:

    Well, we don't know what preceded this — we don't know what preceded the police arrival.

    But anyone watching the video, I think in general folks agree that the actions of the one officer were over the top. Some of the police officers, folks who have seen the video, are seen de-escalating the situation. So there are people who support the police in that community and think that overall they did the right thing.

    The chief acted quickly, which hasn't been the case in some of the other incidents around the country, which people supported and appreciated. And then there's — it's hard to watch that video and not to be disturbed, you know, as a mom, and as a parent, as a community member watching how the girl was treated.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    As you say, you're a parent. I'm a parent of a young teenager.

    What is the conversation that parents are having about now how they'd like their kids to interact when they confront the police?

  • LEONA ALLEN:

    Sure. I think that, for most of us parents, we certainly are having conversations with our kids about being respectful. I think that was what the major concern was from folks who had seen the video is that the officer was acting very disrespectful in his language and in his treatment of the crowd.

    I think several of the officers, as you saw, could be seen kind of trying to de-escalate it. And so you teach your children to be respectful of authority, and you hope that they do that, but you also hope the grownups are being grownups as well as they are treating kids.

    So it's a conversation we have often with our kids, now, too often because of these incidents happening around the country.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    Leona Allen with The Dallas Morning News, thank you very much for talking with us.

  • LEONA ALLEN:

    Thank you.

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