The city of Fort Worth announced that Bonycle Sokunbi will lead its police oversight office, replacing inaugural director Kim Neal.
Sokunbi currently works as the deputy independent police monitor for the Office of the Independent Police Monitor in New Orleans. She started with the office in 2018 as executive director of community relations and worked her way up the ranks to the deputy position.
Sokunbi’s role as Fort Worth’s new police oversight director will become official once she passes final onboarding clearances. She is scheduled to begin work in September.
“We look forward to working with Bonycle to further refine Fort Worth’s program for independent review of the police department in order to increase trust between the community and the department,” city manager David Cooke said in a news release. “We will be relying on her knowledge and experience as we continue to implement best practices for independent review of police.”
Sokunbi was one of two finalists who spoke to community members at a May 31 public forum. There, she emphasized her experience as prosecutor before she transitioned to the oversight office and the way that shaped her understanding of police accountability.
Once in office, Sokunbi said she will review what’s happened there in the past year. She will take a hard look at where it was failing in community outreach and tailor specific strategies to engage community members who haven’t been heard.
Sokunbi’s hiring comes as faith leaders are renewing their calls for a federal investigation into the Fort Worth Police Department. Pastor Kyev Tatum of New Mount Rose Missionary Baptist Church sent a news release June 7, after an officer shot a suicidal woman in the hip last month. The woman was holding a knife and had taken a step toward the officer before they fired.
“To shoot a mentally unstable person and then charge them with a crime is one of the most inhumane acts of a person trying to hide their misconduct. We need a federal investigation and a consent decree for the Fort Worth PD. They are covering up too much misconduct in their department,” Tatum said in the release.
Consent decrees are federal court orders that require changes to the way a police department operates, including updating training and changing and creating new policies. The decrees are designed to rectify ongoing civil rights violations by a city’s police department.
Sokunbi has experience working in a city under a consent decree. New Orleans has been the subject of a decree since 2013. Sokunbi said she hasn’t had a single policy recommendation rejected by New Orleans police since she started. She currently oversees use of force investigations in New Orleans.
“I’ve worked in force and use of force for quite some time, and where I want to see the conversation continue, and where I want to see accountability is, why did we end up in that situation in the first place?,” Sokunbi said at the May 31 forum. “Were your tactics appropriate? Did we even need to apprehend that individual? Could we let them know that they needed mental health treatment?”
At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.