The Dallas Police Department continues to lose officers faster than it can hire and train new ones.
As of July 24, there were 3,115 sworn officers in the department. That number includes trainees at the police academy and injured officers who have been temporarily taken off of the streets, according to a department spokesperson.
As recently as the start of the 2015-2016 fiscal year, there were 3,490 sworn officers in the Dallas Police Department.
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The exodus of officers has only grown in recent years. In the 2014-2015 fiscal year, 242 police officers left the department. In ’15-’16, 294 officers left Dallas police. And as of July 24, 344 Dallas police officers had left the department during the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
Representatives of two of the city’s four police unions — the Dallas Police Association and the Dallas Fraternal Order of Police — predict the number of officers who will leave the force by mid-September will exceed 500. Messages to the Black Police Association of Greater Dallas and the Latino Peace Officers Association went unreturned.
At this rate, more than 1,000 police men and women will have left the Dallas Police Department in less than three years.
“If we reach 1,000 officers, that is the population of almost three full substations. So if you took Northwest, North Central and Northeast [patrol divisions] and just took them out of the picture, that is what you’ve lost,” said Sgt. Michael Mata, President of the Dallas Police Association, who works patrol in the Northeast division. “That’s why we’re at a catastrophic state.”
Mata’s primary concern of what would result from a depleted staff is an increase in response times, which is the amount of time it takes for a 911 call to be dispatched to the time an officer arrives on scene.
As of April, when interim Dallas Police Chief David Pughes updated Dallas City Council members on crime statistics and prevention efforts, response times had already risen from last year’s markers. The amount of time to answer a Priority 1 Emergency call was still approximately 8 minutes. But the response time for a Priority 2 Urgent call had risen from approximately 18 minutes to nearly 22 minutes.
There are multiple reasons why Dallas officers have left the department in droves in recent year, according to Sgt. Mata, including low morale in the department, low pay in relation to many area police departments and uncertainty about the solvency of the department’s pension fund that lasted for months.