City News

Climate and asthma rates fuel this round of Dallas city news

Climate and asthma rates fuel this round of Dallas city news

Dallas skyline Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge
Traffic emissions increase asthma rates. Photo courtesy of Dallas CVB

Fallout following the tragic shooting of Botham Jean continues to dominate the news in Dallas, with plans by his family to file a lawsuit, and changes proposed by the Dallas Police Department to increase  transparency. The city is also cracking down on air pollution, asthma, and school absenteeism.

Here's what happened in Dallas news this week:

Botham lawsuit
The parents of Botham Jean, the man shot dead in his home in early September by off-duty Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, plan to sue the city and Guyger on a claim of excessive force.

According to their attorney Lee Merritt, Allison and Bertrum Jean intend to file a federal lawsuit, although he did not specify when the suit will be filed or what damages the family will seek.

"She is in uniform, she was wearing a badge, she purports to give commands, which he allegedly failed to comply to," Merritt said. "Clocking in or clocking out has no bearing on that analysis.”

Police best practices
The police department is recommending an update of its policing practices which police chief U. Renee Hall said will increase accountability and transparency.

Hall's proposal recommends six steps that the chief said will ease public discourse and in the wake of officer-involved incidents like the shooting of Botham Jean — changes that would bring the department’s policies up to par with other 21st century departments.

A big change: repealing a 2013 policy implemented by former police chief David Brown that allowed officers to wait up to 72 hours before being interviewed after certain incidents. That would be replaced by interviews conducted immediately after an incident. Hall's proposal also recommends mandatory drug and alcohol testing after a critical incident such as an officer-involved shooting.

In a push for better communication with the public, Hall also recommended a regular report that updates the public of the status of high profile officer-involved incidents every five days.

Another proposed change would initiate a management awareness or early warning system that Hall said would monitor, report and archive officers’ actions and improve accountability.

And in perhaps the most significant change, DPD would give its Citizen Review Board more power, including subpoena powers.

Asthma stats
A study found that Dallas ISD students in poorer neighborhoods have asthma at a much higher rate than students in more affluent neighborhoods or elsewhere in the country.

Breathe Easy Dallas, an initiative to track the effects of air pollution on childhood asthma, said in a city council briefing that several environmental factors were to blame, including the region's failure to meet regulatory limits on ozone pollution.

Dallas County leads the North Texas region for childhood asthma-related hospitalization. Respiratory issues are the leading cause of absenteeism among DISD students. African American children are twice as likely as white children to have asthma.

In its proposed study, Breathe Easy Dallas intends to focus on high-risk schools and study solutions such as planting more vegetation, cutting down on idling, and adding health initiatives. The study is expected to take two years.

In response, the Nature Conservancy, the City of Dallas, Dallas ISD, and Texas A&M Transportation Institute will work to improve health and reduce absenteeism.

Air pollution
The Dallas City Council will use $500,000 left from the city's plastic bag fee to enact a climate action plan aimed at cutting down on air pollution.

Molly Rooke, a Dallas Sierra Club member and organizer for Dallas chapter of 350.org, said the climate plan will consider ways to slash pollution caused by transportation, solid waste, building codes, urban heat, and energy use.

Changes could include removing old vehicles from roads, adding more electric vehicles to the city's fleet, and installing solar panels on buildings.