A Texas House committee will hold public hearings on whether Dallas police officers used public-nuisance abatement laws to intimidate and shake down businesses, reports the Dallas Morning News. Mayor Laura Miller and other officials have denied wrongdoing and defended their use of public-nuisance laws, saying they are cracking down on business owners and homeowners who allow crime to happen on their properties.
House committee chairman Kevin Bailey said that if accusations that surfaced this year prove true, the panel could call in prosecutors to look at charges such as official oppression. The accusations included accounts from a business owner who said a dozen police officers parked in his lot to intimidate him. There were complaints that city officials sued business owners based on the number of times they called police for help and that businesses were pressured to hire off-duty officers to get the city to back off public-nuisance claims. Police Chief David Kunkle, who took over after the alleged incidents, said the law was interpreted too narrowly in some cases.