Dallas City Council members shared concerns Monday about the 2019 crime fighting plan presented by Police Chief Renee Hall to the Council Public Safety Committee.
The final police figures for 2018 show violent crime was down by 5.7 percent in Dallas but overall crime was up 3.9 percent with a big increase in auto theft and drug crimes.
Year end 2018 figures also show sworn Dallas police manpower at 3,014, almost 700 fewer than the Dallas peak in 2011. Response times were slower for all but the highest priority one calls.
Hall’s 2019 plan showed that Dallas response time calculations do not include the “cue time” that accrues while the call center waits for an officer to be available for dispatch.
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“If we’re not counting it, we’re only fooling ourselves,” Councilman Philip Kingston said.
Additionally, Kingston complained that police restarted the recorded time count when the response category for calls was changed.
“And it was not disclosed to Council and it did affect the averages,” he said. “So to say it’s not nefarious, I disagree with that. It gave false information to this committee.”
Halls 2019 plan includes five points, the first of which is to reduce crime and response time with support from a long awaited efficiency study under way by a consulting firm.
“If we said we have enough police officers, we’re just not deploying properly, are we going to be ready to receive that? Because that is a possibility that study could come back and tell us,” Hall said.
Committee Chairman Adam McGough said he has trouble believing that could be true given the complaints he hears from residents about slow response.
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“We’re constantly getting berated about it too, and it’s not just about what a study says. It’s about what’s happening on the street.”
McGough also complained about waiting until May to hear recommendations from the consultant about how many officers Dallas really needs.
“I think we aught to be able to have enough expertise around the table and in the room to know what numbers we are shooting for,” he said.
Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata, a patrol Sargent, said the force is short on detectives as well as officer to answer calls.
“We just need to be honest with the public,” Mata said. “We obviously need more officers our response times aren’t where they need to be and that’s not including that time in the cue.”
Police hope to increase recruiting with higher starting salary that took effect this month. Another consulting firm has been hired to groom social media outreach to job candidates.
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Council Members voiced concern Monday that the passing grade for new recruits on the police exam has been reduced to 69% instead of the 80% required in the past.
“69 is below average. Those of us who’ve been to college, even in high school, that’s below average. I have a problem with that,” Councilman Kevin Felder said.
Assistant Chief Angela Shaw said it is a new test so the lower score is still a valid screen for qualified recruits.
Dallas Police have also relaxed standards to allow hiring certified officers from other cities without the two years of college or military experience that was required of all Dallas Police candidates in the past.
“The thing that I see we’re doing most of is reducing the requirements to be a police officer and that becomes concerning,” McGough said.
Even with all the efforts, Chief Hall said she does not expect Dallas to be able to hire as many new officers as the number expected to leave through retirement or transfers this year.
“Every police agency in this country is shooting for the same pool of people for law enforcement because we’re all having the same challenge,” she said.
Dallas will also support officer improvement and community relations.
“There is a great, as you know, distrust, between the police department and residents in Southern Dallas,” said Councilman Casey Thomas.
He praised plans to expand bias training for officers.
Police also intend to improve effectiveness with technology and greater use of civilians in place of sworn officers.