Dallas police intend to pursue a call diversion policy that would no longer routinely send officers in person to take reports on certain property crimes.
Officers would still be sent on those calls if there is distress or citizens are unable to file reports online.
The change was mentioned in a controversial memo that surfaced around New Year’s Day and received extensive attention on social media and news coverage.
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Acting Dallas police Chief Lonzo Anderson quickly rescinded the memo.
Police officials told the Dallas City Council Public Safety Committee Monday that the change had not been finalized with police or council members and that memo was not authorized.
“The incident is currently under investigation by the internal affairs division,” Anderson said.
The new Dallas Police Department Communications Administrator Robert Uribe said the sender of that unauthorized memo has been identified, but he declined to name the person.
“We’re working on ensuring that all changes are approved through my office. At this point, it was absolutely inappropriate that that was released to the staff," Uribe said. "The release to the media is another question that everyone is working on here."
Committee Chair Jennifer Gates said she was upset and concerned about the leaked memo.
“Because it happened, this practice has now been tainted. It’s been misinformed,” Gates said.
Police said Monday they did intend to make the policy change that was recommended in a consultant efficiency study to devote more officers for priority calls.
“We’re going to work on a 60-day rollout with the campaign to promote it with our senior community,” Maj. Israel Herrera said.
Council members said they supported the policy change but much better explanation will be needed for residents to support it after what happened with the memo.
“it caused a lot of unnecessary hysteria,” Councilman Adam Bazaldua said. “In all reality, this is absolutely aligned with reimagining what public safety is and how we can execute more effectively.”
Police said the online reporting system they activated in 2019 has already saved the equivalent of 55 officers a year and elevating the program in 2021 could take the manpower savings equivalent to 80 officers.
“We need to focus our officers on responding to high priority calls and not using them as clerks,” Councilman Lee Kleinman said.
Police claim the new system will actually increase the number of reports they receive by making it easier for people who must wait now for very slow in-person response to low priority calls.
Council Member Cara Mendelsohn said she was not convinced the new policy would achieve that increase.
“I think it’s so broadly written that people don’t really, understand. Are they coming or are they not coming? And if it’s just going to be on the phone or online, maybe it’s not worth reporting,” Mendelsohn said. “The word has already gotten out on this. Don’t call. They’re not coming.
Others worried that some residents have no computers and limited access to online reports, while others said some people make a habit of calling 911 for small issues.
“We've got to ween people off their dependency and their addiction to calling the police every time something comes up,” Council Member Carolyn Arnold said.
Police will reach out to homeowner and community groups to explain the new call diversion policy.