Losing at halftime on public safety in Dallas
The following was adapted from my email newsletter.
The city is now about six months into its fiscal year, which ends September 30.
That means it’s halftime. And on public safety, we are losing.
The new monthly public safety report shows the score pretty clearly. What you will see is that the police department is shrinking (keep in mind: the police department already shrank by hundreds of officers in 2016 and 2017), violent crime remains high, and people are waiting longer to get a 911 call answered. And while some progress has been made on lighting and blight remediation, not a single violence interrupter has been hired.
Public safety should be the top priority at City Hall. People cannot thrive unless they feel safe, and everyone deserves to live in safe communities.
That is why I fought so hard against the City Council’s 25% cut to police overtime last fall.
The numbers are clear: Six months into the fiscal year, the city has expended $15.5 million of the $17.3 million police overtime budget. Put another way, about 90% of the police overtime budget has already been spent. That’s even before the summer months when police typically see an uptick in activity.
The 25% cut was foolish and imprudent. It was bad budgeting, and that was clear from the start. You deserve better. Something like that should never happen again.
There have been attempts to rewrite the history of what happened, so it’s worth going over again. Here are the facts: The city councilmembers who pushed this cut from the police chief’s proposed overtime budget had originally hoped to use the money to pay mostly for unrelated pet projects. But thanks to you and others in Dallas who heeded my call to action, they relented, and the city manager worked with them to find other funding sources for those projects.
But instead of then reversing the nonsensical cut to the police overtime budget, they played games. They redirected overtime money to some public safety initiatives, which sounds positive — until you remember that those new funding sources they used for their pet projects could have been used to pay for those same public safety initiatives! They weren’t putting public safety first.
They also claimed that moving 95 officers out of desk jobs and replacing them with civilians would essentially negate the need for overtime. No doubt, the police department needs to be as efficient as possible. But civilianization is a process. It was never going to occur overnight. The City Council knew that.
Now, with 90% of the police overtime budget out the door, and half of the fiscal year gone, only 32 of the 95 police positions have been transitioned to civilian positions. That doesn’t even keep pace with the numbers of officers leaving the department. According to the report, 98 officers are gone, and only 48 have been hired to help replace them.
Dallas deserves better than this. Real lives are at stake here. This is why it’s important to stay engaged in your local government and the budgeting process.
Take a look for yourself at the report. Below are all the numbers as of March 31. The parentheses show the change from last month’s report. Remember, the crime statistics had reset on January 1 and reflect the calendar year, not the fiscal year. Other numbers reflect the fiscal year, which began October 1, 2020.
Task Force on Safe Communities implementation
Number of new streetlights installed as part of the Priority Improvement Zones: 855 (+60)
Number of new streetlights installed as part of the Digital Divide and Strategic Streetlighting Plan: 100 (No change)
Number of new streetlights installed as part of the environmental improvements for crime prevention plan: 146 (+70)
Number of blighted properties remediated by Neighborhood Nuisance Abatement: 17,819 (+2,465)
Number of blighted properties remediated by the Office of Integrated Public Safety Solutions, utilizing Code Compliance personnel within Risk Terrain Area: 708 (+166)
Number of violence interrupters funded by the City of Dallas: 0 (No change)
Total number of murders and non‐negligent homicides year‐to‐date: 51 (+13)
Murder victims by race/ethnicity
Black: 32 (+8)
Hispanic: 13 (+4)
White: 6 (+1)
Murders by City Council district
District 1: 1 (No change)
District 2: 4 (+3)
District 3: 5 (+1)
District 4: 7 (-1)
District 5: 2 (+1)
District 6: 3 (+3)
District 7: 8 (+2)
District 8: 11 (+3)
District 9: 2 (+1)
District 10: 5 (0)
District 11: 1 (No change)
District 12: 0 (No change)
District 13: 0 (No change)
District 14: 2 (No change)
(For your reference, here is a map of City Council districts. You can also find your representatives here).
Total number of murders and non‐negligent homicides during the current year in which no arrest has been made: 17 (-8)
Number of 911 call takers on staff: 79 (-1)
Average 911 call holding time, in minutes and seconds: 22 seconds (+5 seconds)
Police civilianization, hiring, and overtime
Total amount of overtime funding expended to date in the current fiscal year: $15.5 million (+$2.73 million)
Total Dallas Police Department overtime budget allocated for the current fiscal year: $17.3 million (No change)
Total number of jobs transitioned from sworn officers to non‐sworn employees as part of KPMG civilianization plan: 32 (+16)
Total number of police officers and trainees hired year‐to‐date: 48 (+21)
Total number of police officers and trainees who have resigned, retired, or have been terminated: 98 (+16)
Total number of police department civilian employees hired: 97 (+23)
Total number of police department civilian employees who have resigned, retired, or have been terminated: 46 (+9)
Police response times
Median police response times to priority 1 calls: 5 minutes, 59 seconds (-6 seconds)
Percentage of priority 1 calls receiving a response in under 8 minutes: 66.5% (+10.15%)
Median police response times to priority 2 calls: 14 minutes, 21 seconds (+10 seconds)
There is much work to do to get these trends moving in the right direction. New Police Chief Eddie Garcia is working on a violent crime reduction plan. But he needs the resources and help to succeed.
Tell your city councilmember to put public safety first. Dallas needs a strong second half, and the City Council must commit to not playing games next time around.