Keller police chief explains response to policy failures at town hall

The Keller Police Department will hold a second town hall meeting Jan. 21, seeking feedback from residents on police department policies. (Kira Lovell/Community Impact Newspaper)
The Keller Police Department will hold a second town hall meeting Jan. 21, seeking feedback from residents on police department policies. (Kira Lovell/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Keller Police Department will hold a second town hall meeting Jan. 21, seeking feedback from residents on police department policies. (Kira Lovell/Community Impact Newspaper)

Keller Police Department Chief Brad Fortune hosted a town hall meeting Jan. 11 to address an August incident of police misconduct.

Fortune outlined several concrete goals to give the department’s policing more accountability. One change in policy will be to provide the Keller City Council with quarterly reports rather than annually. Department supervisors will also review footage from body cams and dash cams more regularly to ensure that officers treat citizens with dignity.

“We are nationally accredited, and we are state recognized, and that is all true,” Fortune said. “But this still happened, so there’s ways that we have to improve.”

The incident that took place Aug. 15 raised four main issues regarding police conduct. It began when Dillon Puente was pulled over and arrested by then-Sgt. Blake Shimanek for making an improper wide right turn. According to Fortune, department policy states arrests for traffic violations are legal but discouraged, and they require a supervisor’s approval. Shimanek was a supervisor at the time of the incident. Going forward, Fortune said the department will require a second approval.

The second issue happened after Dillon Puente’s father, Marco Puente, and a backup officer, Ankit Tomer, arrived. According to body cam footage, Shimanek told Tomer to watch Marco Puente and then changed his mind and told Tomer to arrest the father, who was recording his son’s arrest. Fortune said at the town hall that officers who arrive at a scene later should follow a “good-faith doctrine” and believe the officers who have been there the entire time understand the full context of what is going on.

The August incident ultimately escalated to the forceful arrest and pepper-spraying of Marco Puente. Fortune explained at the town hall that officers in Keller receive training in de-escalation, avoiding implicit bias and other “soft skills” that go beyond state requirements.

The final issue expressed by many citizens who spoke at the town hall was the way the department disciplined the officers. Shimanek was demoted and removed from patrol duty, which Fortune said was for the safety of both the public and Shimanek himself. Shimanek and his family, Fortune said, have received death threats. Many residents asked that Shimanek be fired, but litigation around the incident prevented Fortune from specifically addressing the disciplinary action.

The second town hall scheduled for Jan. 21 will take place after Fortune conducts a quarterly meeting with department supervisors. Fortune said that he wants to use that meeting to discuss policy failures in the department and ways to fix them.

“I spent the first 24 years [of my career] in Plano,” said Fortune, who joined the police department in March. “So, yes, I’m new to Keller, but I’m not new to the police profession. This isn’t my first internal affairs investigation.”

Fortune and other city employees and officials present could not speak to specific actions taken by the department in response to the August incident due to an ongoing federal lawsuit filed by Marco Puente. Because the defendants, Shimanek and Tomer, are Keller employees and the plaintiff is a Keller constituent, the city is responsible for and accountable to both sides of the case, Council Member Mitch Holmes said. The city, through taxpayer funds, would also be responsible for any financial settlement, which disincentives any city employee or elected official from saying anything that could change the outcome of the case.

Throughout the town hall, Fortune offered to speak to Keller residents with questions about the incident after the litigation, one on one or by email.

Many people who spoke at the town hall addressed the issue of trust in the police department. Fortune acknowledged that until recently, policing as a profession did not have ways to recognize and understand that a person might be nervous to interact with police officers based on past experience or on public incidents such as this one.

“It wasn’t until just this year when we started to really look at implicit bias and all these things and really started looking at what empathy represents and what it means,” Fortune said.
By Kira Lovell
Kira Lovell is a reporter covering Grapevine-Colleyville-Southlake and Keller-Roanoke-North Fort Worth. Before joining Community Impact, she majored in journalism at the University of Missouri and covered education and local arts for the Columbia Missourian and Vox Magazine.


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