Follow Up: The Arrest of Avi Adelman in Dallas
August 26, 2016 (Fault Lines) – Back on February 9, 2016, Avi Adelman was falsely arrested by the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Police because he was taking photographs of Dallas firefighters treating a K2 overdose at a bus stop in downtown Dallas. I wrote about the arrest here, and how the arrest was crap. Adelman commented on the column, and I’ve kept in contact with him, intending to follow up on the story.
You see, Adelman filed an Internal Affairs complaint, and as the original story showed, the DART PD chief, James Spiller, was throwing the officer, Stephanie Branch, under the bus, so to speak. Within a week of the arrest, Spiller ordered officer Roy Wilt to conduct the investigation.
At the conclusion of the investigation, Wilt found that Branch had:
- Engaged in conduct that was illegal or would reflect negatively on DART, by making an arrest without probable cause when Adelman was taking photographs in public, and within DART policy.
- Effected an arrest without probable cause that Adelman had committed a criminal offense.
- Was derelict in her duties when she mistakenly believed that Adelman’s photography was prohibited both by DART policy and HIPPA law.
- Made a false arrest.
- Falsified an official police report, by placing improper and incorrect information in the report.
- Violated the DART photography policy, by falsely arresting Adelman when he was in fact in compliance with the policy.
That’s not the coup de grace, however. Branch’s interaction with Adelman was audio recorded, and the statements that she gave to the investigator did not match with that recording. In one of the IA report documents, it repeatedly brings this up, stating:
This statement has been denied by [Dallas Fire Rescue (DFR)] personnel and by Officers Craig and Cannon. This statement is not heard or viewed on any video or audio recordings taken from the scene.
In other words, Branch lied. At numerous places on the report, all of them dealing with different issues, the following statement appeared:
This statement is not heard or viewed on any video or audio recordings taken from the scene and is not accurate.
The investigator identified twenty-three instances where Branch put inaccurate or plainly false information in her report. She put words in Adelman’s mouth that he did not say. She put words in the mouths of the firefighters and paramedics they did not say. She said that she gave Adelman warnings that the recordings show she never gave, and claimed that she made statements to him that she never made.
A local news station, WFAA, said that Branch just made it up. They are right, she did just make it up.
I contacted DART and asked for a comment on this matter for the story. DART Assistant Vice President for External Relations, Morgan Lyons, replied:
Thanks for your email. We have no comment for your column on this matter.
I had asked several questions that were relevant to the issues at hand, specifically:
- What disciplinary action was taken, if any, against Ofc. Branch?
- What training, memorandum, or roll-call instructions have been given to officers on how to deal with photographers in the future?
- It appears that the IA investigation is stating that Ofc. Branch was either not truthful or not accurate in her report on the matter, which creates another issue. Was the Dallas County Criminal District Attorney advised of this fact, so that they could place Ofc. Branch on their Brady list?
- Will that affect her ability to testify in criminal cases filed by DART police?
None of these questions have been answered, but as WFAA reported, Branch is still employed as an officer by DART. Presumably she could still be on the street, making arrests, putting people in jail, and then filing out a report of what she claims happened. Only now, her credibility is totally shot, and nothing she reports will be viewed as being credible.
It the District Attorney is notified, they will have to notify every defense attorney on every case in which Branch is a witness. And it doesn’t stop in Dallas, as the DART jurisdiction also includes Collin County, Denton County, Ellis County, Kaufman County, Rockwall County, and Tarrant County, so those DAs would have to be notified also.
This isn’t good for DART, it’s not good for the police, and it’s not good for the public. It’s not transparent enough, and the public really has a right to know that their employees uphold the public trust.
Most DART officers are good. An old co-worker of mine is a sergeant with DART, and I cannot think of a finer officer—his integrity is beyond question for me. Most DART officers would never think about making stuff like this up, or flat out lying, and based on my past experience, most will be rightfully upset with Branch. They know that you cannot tolerate a police officer whose veracity is in question.
It’s over six months since Branch falsely arrested Adelman, yet she is still employed by DART. It’s time for this to move forward.