Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson says 275 more positions for police officers and the city providing "market-rate salary increases for first responders" are among his priorities for the next city budget.
Johnson made the announcement Tuesday in a letter sent to City Manager T.C. Broadnax. The request was one of a number of priorities the mayor outlined for next month's budget presentation.
The current plan is to add 150 officers this year and another 150 next year. The problem, Johnson said, was that the department has lost 67 officers this year and if they only add 300 over the next two years the police force would actually be reduced by 110 officers during that time.
Johnson said if the city can budget to hire 275 each year then the department would be growing, not contracting.
"It would effectively reverse the current year's reduction and begin to grow the department, which shrank by hundreds of officers during the 2016-17 pension crisis," Johnson said in a statement.
Johnson said the city has additional funding available this year through the American Rescue Plan Act and that President Joe Biden has encouraged cities to use those federal COVID-19 relief funds to hire law enforcement personnel.
"Public safety must come first," Johnson said. "While we cannot depend on police alone to prevent crime, our officers play a unique role in taking dangerous people - especially repeat offenders - off our streets. Our police department has been strained in recent years by short staffing, which has necessitated substantial police overtime spending. We can and must do better. We need to grow our police force again to meet the demands of our residents and to make our communities safer and stronger."
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Johnson said he's also pushing for money to help fix the city's beleaguered 911 call center staffing issues -- problems which date back to 2012 when new Mayor Mike Rawlings asked for the staffing problems to be fixed. Now, four years later, two years into his term, current Mayor Eric Johnson is still asking for the same thing.
In June, Dallas officials made more demands and more promises for improvement at the 911 call center after it took almost 12 minutes for police to answer the first of the calls seeking help for the stabbing of two people, one of whom was a 7-year-old girl who later died.
“Answering the phone when someone calls 911 in a life and death situation is something you have to get right, and we're going to get it right,” Johnson said last month.
A June briefing to the Dallas City Council Public Safety Committee said the staff was 26 below authorized strength of 110 as of May 31.
Other budget priorities highlighted by Johnson include money to help fund his Mayor's Task Force on Safe Communities programs and his Back to Basics agenda, which includes reforms for the permitting office, increased street and sidewalk investment, and sanitation services improvements.
"While I will continue to advocate strongly for programs, policies, and plans that can set Dallas up for success in the decades to come, I believe our primary focus this fiscal year must be on improving basic services," Johnson said. "Our residents depend on these services, and it is imperative that the city council and city staff rally around these concepts and goals. Getting Back to Basics will help us ensure that Dallas can reach its full potential."
Broadnax will propose the city's budget in August. From there it'll be amended and eventually approved by the City Council.
The next fiscal year starts for the city of Dallas on Oct. 1.