Dallas police officer under investigation for marijuana law reform support
A Dallas police officer is under investigation for his stance on changing marijuana laws in Texas. He also claims he is being investigated because he has exposed his department for being so understaffed that they cannot answer calls in a timely manner.
Officer Nick Novello, who has been in law enforcement for 35 years, was set to retire in September from the Dallas Police Department. He’ll now have to wait.
Novello has made several media appearances over the past month with a number of local news outlets. The primary point of these interviews has been about the City of Dallas being unwilling to properly budget for and staff the police department.
“We’re on a slippery slope, and there’s some that would argue we’re in free fall right now,” Novello says. He adds that FBI guidelines call for three officers per 1,000 residents, however the Dallas Police Department is “close, if not under two per 1,000. It is not good.”
“We’re under-staffed, we’re under-manned, we have very few people to work with, and now when I go to work, I’m told I need to step it up,” Novello states.
Earlier this year he released a video asking President Trump to federally re-schedule marijuana and appeared in an ad supporting HB 81 in the Texas House of Representatives which would have reduced the penalty to a civil fine for those possessing an ounce or less of marijuana. He has also spoken publicly about the need to legalize marijuana in Texas due to the sheer number of young adults whose lives have been severely harmed by criminal marijuana possession records. Such records follow people their entire lives and often harm employment and housing opportunities, as well as prevent them from obtaining funds for higher education.
This stance on marijuana law reform is the department’s reason for launching the investigation, which Novello says he was told it was “due to a conflict of interest.”
In response to that claim, Novello wrote an internal memorandum which he then made public. Some of his statements include, “I don’t have a conflict of interest, I have a conflict of conscience; I tire of talking to young people, mostly minorities, that have had their lives defined by an arrest for marijuana possession.”
Additionally, “In reviewing the allegation against me, ‘Conflict of Interest’ for having expressed views that different from the Dallas Police Department’s regarding decriminalizing minor amounts of marijuana possession and expanding the medicinal applications of the plant, I stand by what I have been saying for years: police Departments across the land are criminalizing those we have sworn to protect. This holds true for DPD as well. Our cultural fabric will not endure much more of this abuse. We have millions of men on the streets unable to market their wares because we have ‘branded’ them incorrigible criminals. This is perverse and unjustifiable.”
He goes on to state, “When Chief Terrance Cunningham, of the International Chiefs of Police Association said (Oct of 2016) that he wanted to ‘apologized to minorities in America, because we (police) have done some unspeakable things because of some bad laws on the books,’ he was lauded for his candor. I echo similar thoughts in what I say publically, but I am being cited for ‘conflict of interest’ for having said as much. I suggest that this investigation says more about the Dallas Police Department and its priorities than it does about me and mine.”
The investigation seems to have kicked into gear after Novello posted a video on Facebook demonstrating long call response times and the department’s inability to adequately respond to calls. He then addressed the Dallas City Council a short time later, where he accused them and Mayor Mike Rawlings of abandoning police and putting people’s lives in danger.
According to a report by NBC DFW, Dallas police stated that a priority-one response time was an average of 8.24 minutes as of May 8, 2017, just slightly slower than the 7.94 minutes reported on average for 2016. Priority-two response was 22.31 minutes in May compared with 18.26 in 2016. Priority three was 63.69 minutes compared with 49.15 in 2016, and priority four response was 79.17 minutes in May compared with 63.34 minutes in 2016.
Novello contests this, saying that the call times are much higher, and that the department is misleading the city council.
He says that this investigation is retaliatory in nature due to the claims he has made about the department, his support for raising policing standards, and his stance on changing marijuana laws.
“They cannot rebut my position, so they must attack the messenger. The reason they are investigating me has more to do with defending the indefensible, than it does with any violations I might have committed. Unfortunately, they are far past a point of viable damage control.”
Novello adds that he suspects that the department takes major issue with his stand on marijuana law reform because it undermines a major revenue stream. He believes the city and department would prefer to issue citations and collect fines rather than see marijuana be made legal.
“My deepest concern has to do with the safety and well being of first responders and citizens,” Novello says. “I sincerely don’t believe the current city administration cares one iota for their well being, especially those citizens who reside in west and south Dallas. I would tell anyone, cease listening to their empty rhetoric and assess their actions; you’ll get a clearer picture of their intentions.”
He concludes that the city is culpable for not acting, and his goal is to spread awareness about the issues facing the department in hopes that it will spur people, including city leaders, into action to fix these problems and hold those responsible for them accountable.
Novello remarked, “It should also be noted that while the city and department are unwilling to spend the money to hire more officers, they are willing to prevent an officer such as myself from retiring, and instead opt to continue keeping me on the payroll so that they can launch an investigation which has no real specifics of wrongdoing.”
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