New Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall offered a 5 point 2018 strategy to City Council Members Monday and one idea to boost manpower drew a cold response.
Hall suggested reducing the acceptable passing grade for new recruits on the state required exam to 70% instead of the 80% Dallas has always required.
“I have no desire to reduce the standards that are here. We’re looking at adjusting the requirements. Seventy percent is passing even at Harvard University, so why wouldn’t it be at the City of Dallas,” Hall said. “Eighty percent is higher than our industry standard. When we look at best practices across the country, 80 is not it.”
Dallas City Council Member Kevin Felder said he likes higher grades.
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“I want DPD to be a cut above so I would like you to put it at 75% as opposed to 70%,” Felder said.
Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata said Dallas has been an exemplary Department and it should stay that way.
“I want to maintain that we get the highest level of officer,” Mata said. “To do that you have to make sure you get the highest level of recruit.”
Dallas currently does not have the highest level of manpower or police salaries. The number of sworn officers as of Monday was down to 3,045 and 140 of those were still in training. Mata said Dallas peaked at 3,691 several years ago.
“We just don’t have enough officers out there. We’re working a large amount of overtime. You can’t work these officers that much,” he said.
Even with the low manpower, the latest Dallas figures show a 9.29% drop in overall crime for the first two months of 2018 compared with last year. Violent crime was down 21.43% after increasing much of 2017. The one exception to the violent crime decline was a 19.69% increase in Sexual Assault.
Property crime was down 6.31% in the first two months of 2018 with the exception of a 12.15% increase in Business Burglary and a 17.17% increase in Auto Theft.
Hall said her five point strategy is to continue reducing crime, boost recruiting and retention of officers, advance officer development, improve organizational effectiveness and foster community relationships.
“With the number of officers we have, we’re still investigating, we’re still doing community engagement, we’re still reducing crime,” Hall said. “I think everybody is rolling up their sleeves and they’re committed to the process, so we have to be committed to them by giving them what they need.”
One possible change to help officers is a 4 day work week so they can spend more time with families.
“We’re trying to make this environment as comfortable as possible. We recognize that the work of a law enforcement professional is challenging,” Hall said.
The city is working on a police manpower study to determine how many officers Dallas really needs.
Public Safety Committee Chairman Adam McGough praised the continued reduction in crime and the hard work of officers but said he is worried about continued shrinkage of the force.
“I still continue to see really good folks that I’ve known a long time retiring or leaving to go to other departments,” McGough said.
Union leader Mata said pay raises are needed to compete with other agencies for recruits and to keep officers from leaving.
“She doesn’t have enough resources,” Mata said. “The City Council and the City Manager need to give Chief Hall enough resources so she can succeed and the Dallas Police Department can succeed,” he said.
Chief Hall’s briefing said a push to increase salaries in the next city budget is part of her strategy.