Fort Worth police detectives will head back to patrol this summer because of staffing challenges.
Beginning June 1, detectives will be back in patrol cars once per week to increase the number of two-person units in select parts of the city.
In an e-mail to the city manager this week, Chief Jeffrey Halstead said it is not a long-term solution but would work to keep crime down this summer. Halstead said he decided on Monday to send detectives back on patrol after receiving a report last week that said it takes longer for police to respond to calls.
"Saturation patrols are very effective, and with this we can have added value throughout the entire summer and, really, through the entire calendar year," Halstead said Thursday morning at the grand opening of the East Lancaster Police Storefront.
While detectives will spend a week riding with a patrol officer, school security officers also will be on patrol while school is out when they are not in training courses. And neighborhood patrol officers, who typically work in more of a crime prevention role, will handle calls in their areas one day per week.
In the e-mail to City Manager Tom Higgins, Halstead said patrol officer numbers are "at a very low level." Police staff confirmed the department has 74 open positions.
"We really want a creative solution to a short-term challenge that we're faced, but I also really want to take that expert knowledge from the investigator and start saturating that information with our patrol officers, because we're going to start getting better reports," Halstead said.
Fort Worth Police Officers Association President Stephen Hall doesn't dispute the chief's point but said it isn't the long-term solution the city needs.
"I'm not supportive of the overall concept because what we really need is more bodies," Hall said. "I understand that he's doing what he has to do, but that doesn't mean I like it."
Mayor Betsy Price said she views the policy as the chief finding a way to best use his resources.
"The chief has been very creative with his training, doing a lot of cross-training and getting people back out," Price said. "And I think we'll see good results coming out of that."
Halstead said in his email that, after several years of keeping the department "ahead of the curve," he would not be able to do so this year. He said more patrol officers and investigators are needed.
The police department's budget has been cut by $20 million in just the last few years.