Newly leaked video footage shows a police supervisor in Balch Springs — the same town where an officer was fired for the fatal shooting of Jordan Edwards — using a Taser on a handcuffed, compliant Black suspect. The department is now concerned about the public’s perception of its officers, while the incident raises questions about the officers’ training.
FOX 4 received the video footage, dated April 28, 2016, and stated that it is unclear where the video came from or who sent it to the news outlet.
The video was recorded from a body camera on the unknown officer who used his Taser on 39-year-old Marco Stephenson. The officer in question has only been identified as a supervisor with the department.
The officer arrives on the scene and walks over as another unidentified officer kicks away a gun, later determined to be a BB gun. Officers then cut the straps off Stephenson’s backpack and remove it from his back, as one officer says, “You better watch it, Marco.”
“I spit a toothpick in the grass,” Stephenson says.
At this point the officer takes out his Taser and uses it on Stephenson until he collapses to the ground.
“Don’t pull away. Do you understand?” the officer asks and then uses his Taser again.
“You understand? Don’t pull away,” he repeats several times as Stephenson yells in pain.
“You get it? Do you get it?” the officer asks.
“Yes sir,” Stephenson says.
“Are you gonna straighten up?”
“’Cause I ain’t playing with you today. Do you understand? Do you understand?”
“Now we’re gonna get up, and you’re not gonna do anything stupid again. Do you understand?”
Stephenson did not file a complaint against the department regarding the incident.
Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber said that what happened was reported by the sergeant’s own officers.
“At the end of the day, they did the right thing,” Haber told FOX 4. “They brought it to our attention.”
After the Texas Rangers, Professional Standards and the Dallas County DA’s Public Integrity Unit assessed the incident, “We decided together that this was an administrative issue, not a criminal issue.”
“The chief says the sergeant was reprimanded and put on ‘no contact with the public’ until he completed classes on conflict resolution, anti-bias and how to respond to mental health calls,” FOX 4 reported.
The incident with Stephenson has no known connection to Edwards’ shooting death.
Haber told FOX 4 that Stephenson is a repeat offender who has been a problem for the department.
“He’s been handled 37 times through Dallas County — 37 offenses,” Haber said. “He’s been arrested or booked into the Dallas County Jail 17 times. He’s been booked in through our facility 19 times and I think 33 separate offenses.”
The Balch Springs Police Department posted a statement on its Facebook page late Tuesday night.
“With recent events we understand we are under the microscope from the public eye, and that is why we will continue to serve our community as we have done in the past,” the statement says in part. “We understand people are upset and angry from the video that occurred in 2016 and we have made changes and corrections to better serve our community.”
The 2016 incident and Edwards’ recent killing raise the question of what the officers’ training consists of in the first place.
The department’s website lists a “racial profiling policy” on its website dated October 10, 2011, which states, “Officers shall complete all training required by state law regarding bias based profiling.”
The policy also has a section dedicated to the role of supervisors in unbiased policing. It reads, in part:
“Supervisors shall be mindful that in account for the actions and performance of subordinates, supervisors are the key to maintaining community trust in law enforcement. Supervisors shall continually reinforce the ethic of impartial enforcement of the laws, and shall ensure that personnel, by their actions, maintain the community’s trust in law enforcement.
“Supervisors are reminded that biased enforcement of the laws engenders not only mistrust of law enforcement but increases safety risks to personnel. Lack of control over biases also exposes the department to liability consequences. Supervisors shall be held accountable for repeated instances of biased enforcement of their subordinates.”
Roy Oliver was recently fired from the department after the fatal shooting of 15-year-old Edwards, who was in a car that was leaving a house party. Edwards was shot in the head. Oliver has been charged with murder, and the Department of Justice is expected to launch an investigation into the Balch Springs PD (a separate investigation from the charges filed against Oliver).
NBC DFW 5 reported that of the department’s 38 police officers, 28 are white, six are Black, three are Hispanic and one is Native American.
In contrast, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Balch Springs has a population of about 25,000 people and is 55.5 percent Hispanic, 23.1 percent Black, 19.2 percent white, and less than 1 percent both American Indian/Alaska Native and Asian.
The demographics have changed significantly over time. In 2000, more than half of the population was white, just about a quarter was Hispanic and 18.5 percent was Black.
“When we look at departments in which the general makeup of the department does not mirror or come close to the people they are supposed to be policing, that’s when we start seeing problems,” Jasmine Crockett, an attorney for the Edwards family, told NBC DFW 5.
Notably, poverty levels in the town are disproportionate to the population, with 30.8 percent of Hispanics, 19 percent of Blacks and 15 percent of whites living below the poverty level. Twenty-five percent of the town’s whole population lives below the poverty line.