On the heels of the shooting death of a 15-year-old on Friday, Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia met with the community in South Oak Cliff to discuss public safety.
Chief Garcia said concerns discussed in community settings are not taken lightly.
Monday night’s meeting took place at the Hiawatha Recreation Center in south Oak Cliff. The discussion was organized by Council Member Carolyn King Arnold just days following the death of a 15-year-old at Derek Geter Park. It was the 103RD murder this year.
Charles Martin is senior pastor of Union Church on South Polk Street. He said many in his congregation are worried about police response to violent crime. Several others in attendance voiced their displeasure with police response times as well. Some said it has taken over an hour for police to arrive on what they believe should be high-priority calls.
“They’re concerned about police response time in our area, and safety in our area, be it for children or adults,” Martin said. "I would like to have a conversation with our Southwest Patrol Division chief so we can improve it."
Chief Garcia has a crime reduction plan and programs implemented by Neighborhood Police Officers – or NPOs – responsible for building relationships within their assigned neighborhoods and districts.
Still, even with more than $500 million allocated for police by the city, Garcia said he doesn’t have the manpower he’d like to have right now.
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“Even if I could snap my fingers now and miraculously say I’m going to have 400 more officers, I can’t absorb 400 more officers right now,” Garcia said. “I don’t have the recruiting. I don’t have the academy space. I don’t have enough trainers and supervision.”
With that in mind, Martin said perhaps there are other ways of looking at public safety.
“What assets do we have in the community where we can begin not to become community police, but so concerned that we can begin to police ourselves and make some differences,” he said.
There was agreement that the problem won’t be fixed overnight but some in attendance said this is a start, and they want to see follow-through from the department on its commitment to partnership.