City Officials Question Dallas Police Staffing Recommendations

City council members debate lack of progress, while offering support for Dallas Police Department leadership

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For the first time in years, a Dallas police commander publicly stated a staffing recommendation for the Dallas Police Department.

It happened Monday as Executive Assistant Chief David Pughes spoke with reporters after a Dallas City Council briefing on the implementation of a staffing and efficiency study completed last year.

“I think the ideal number would be somewhere where we were at previously, 3,500, 3,600 officers. We could show we were able to reduce crime year over year for 13 straight years, and that’s a number ultimately we would like to be at,” Pughes said. “There is a direct correlation between the number of officers you have and the ability to control violent crime. You can put together specific groups of people to go out and target these locations.”

Pughes said police hiring has improved, with the benefit of pay raises approved for Dallas police and firefighters last year. He said the police force has 3,150 officers, up from a low of about 3,000 two years ago. The Dallas police manpower peak was 3,690 in 2011.

Pughes' remarks came after city council members sparred over the lack of progress by police at putting recommendations from consultants in place that would help the city get by with fewer officers.

The report released last summer had nine recommendations. The first was a realignment of patrol, with up to six shifts to more closely respond to demand for service instead of the current three shifts. 

The change is being tested at the South Central Patrol Substation located on Camp Wisdom Road.

Councilman Adam Mc Gough asked why it was not also happening at other stations, including Northeast in his part of the city.

“There’s no reason when we’ve got six other divisions that are having huge increases in crime where we’ve got to wait until South Central finishes,” McGough said.

Police said the change could require more squad cars and there is currently a shortage of Dallas police cars.

Council member Cara Mendelsohn questioned why many changes recommended by the study have not been made.

“Things that were supposed to have been done in June, July, August, September of 2019,” Mendelsohn said.

Police Chief U. Renee Hall said an outside "implementation manager" is being hired to oversee the changes the department has agreed to make. The process is expected to take 36 months.

“What we have to do is understand all that goes into what they are asking us to do, so we are in the process of putting those in place and developing those strategies,” Hall said.

Dallas Police Association Union President Mike Mata said it should not be necessary to hire someone to implement the study recommendations. Mata said Hall slashed the size of the command staff when she arrived from Detroit more than two years ago and that command manpower is also too small for the tasks at hand.

“I know we have capable people here who already know Dallas, the city of Dallas, Dallas crime. I think we should be able to find somebody here within the department,” Mata said. “These chiefs have so much on their plate, effectively, how can you get anything done when you have everything on your plate?"

Pughes said the changes will be a big project.

“It’s a comprehensive change to the Dallas Police Department. It’s going to take an entire team of people,” Pughes said.

Other efficiency recommendations included hiring more civilians to replace sworn officers in certain functions. Pughes said crime analysis, the Fusion Center, communications and training are areas where 95 police positions have been identified for civilian replacements. The study said other cities have a ratio of 24% civilian police staffing.

“We need to continue to identify those place that we have people who are highly trained, carrying a gun, special equipment, that the job doesn’t require that,” Pughes said.

Mata agreed that some police functions could be replaced with civilians, but not training.

“The police academy should not be taught by civilians,” Mata said.

Council member Carolyn Arnold criticized other council members who criticized police.

“We don’t want to spend a lot of time fighting with the officers or the leadership,” Arnold said. “I’m asking you all, let’s get about the business of talking safety. My neighborhoods look a little bit different that yours’.”

Councilman Casey Thomas pledged to support Hall and her approach to making changes.

“I’m going to do what I can on my end to make sure you have the support physically, emotionally, spiritually,” Thomas said.

Thomas and Arnold represent portions of the South Central Patrol District where the first changes are happening.

Thomas pointed out that meetings are scheduled in February to share information about the changes in the South Central Patrol District with the public.

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