May Killing Spree Confronts Shrunken Dallas Police Homicide Squad

Just 13 Dallas detectives assigned to homicide, union leader says

A May killing spree of more than a murder a day this month in Dallas is surpassing the number of detectives assigned to investigate homicide at the Dallas Police Department.

The death of 65-year-old Carolyn Parrish just after midnight on Thursday May 16 was the 17 Dallas homicide so far in May.

"She was at the wrong place at the wrong time," said her son, Kia McAfee.

The woman in her car was hit by gunfire that evidently came from somewhere up the street in the 1300 block of Grinnell Street.

"It probably wasn't deliberate, but my Momma had to die in it," McAfee said.

Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata said just 13 detectives are currently trained and assigned for homicide, fewer than half the 28 there were in 2008.

"This is years and years and years of not hiring the amount of officers that was necessary," Mata said.

In 2018, the workload amounted to around 12 cases a year assigned to each homicide detective, far more than other big Texas cities according to information Mata compiled.

Fort Worth's 10 homicide detectives handled an average of 6.4 cases a year in 2018. In San Antonio, 14 homicide detectives had 7.9 cases. Houston's 80 homicide detectives averaged 3.4 cases in 2018. Austin homicide detectives had an average of 2.7 cases in 2018.

Figures from the Dallas Police Department blog show nine unsolved killings for 2019 through March. From 2018, 60 homicides are unsolved. From 2017 there are still 79 unsolved cases.

Mata said it is stressful for families and for detectives.

"They have to go to these families. They have to answer that phone every day and say 'Yes I'm making progress" or sometimes, unfortunately, "I'm not making progress,'" Mata said.

Kia McAfee knows of no suspects in his mother's death but he wants the crime solved.

"I want justice served," he said." This is Dallas. We can do way better than this."

At last report in April 2019, there were 3,000 sworn officers on the Dallas Police force. That compares with a peak of 3,690 in 2011.

Dallas boosted police starting pay to $60,000 this year, the middle of the pack among North Texas cities instead of one of the lowest as it was before.

There is a big push to recruit more officers. But officials still recently said they expect to lose more officers to retirement or resignation this year than they can hire.

"This is a problem of years," Mata said.

In the meantime, the union leader said he has spoken to commanders about the homicide unit.

"They are looking at moving more detectives over into that unit. The problem is, it does take time," he said.

Detectives from other units require additional training for homicide cases, Mata said.

Dallas Police staffing is a huge issue in the June 8 run-off election for a new Dallas Mayor but neither of the candidate have identified immediate solutions.

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