Police overtime (again) and other Dallas updates
A city audit has found no evidence of waste, fraud, or abuse of police overtime.
The following was adapted from my email newsletter. To sign up, visit mayorofdallas.org.
Wanted to give you an update on where things stand in terms of public safety in Dallas. And, heads-up, your help will be needed. More on that in a moment.
First, the crime numbers: So far this year, robberies and burglaries are down significantly. But some key violent crime categories remain too high.
Aggravated assaults are still up by about 4% over last year. Murders are down from where they stood at this time last year, but just barely.
The violent crime reduction plan has shown positive early results, but more support is needed. As Police Chief Eddie Garcia said during the city council’s budget discussion Thursday, “we need more officers.”
So, let’s get him more police officers.
The proposed budget, which received preliminary approval last week, currently calls for hiring 250 officers in the upcoming fiscal year — an increase of 100 officers over the planned budget that passed last year. That means the police department will grow again. That’s huge for a police department that shrank by about 500 officers in 2016 and 2017.
The budget also provides market-rate salary increases for police officers and firefighters. That will ensure Dallas retains its veteran first responders and remains competitive for top talent with its growing neighbor cities.
The 911 call center has also had a staffing shortage in recent years. The budget significantly boosts staffing to ensure that emergency calls are answered as quickly as possible.
In addition, with the help of federal funds, the police department will be able to purchase additional squad cars that will increase police presence in crime hot spots.
Reducing crime is not the responsibility of law enforcement alone, however. The budget also sets aside funding to continue the Mayor’s Task Force on Safe Communities programs that were launched in the past year. Those programs are meant to help reduce the burdens on police by addressing the environmental and social factors that allow violent behavior to fester. And the budget also expands the RIGHT Care program to help the city to appropriately handle mental health crises.
All of those budget enhancements will help make the city safer. But there is one issue that still needs to be settled: the police overtime budget.
Yep, that again.
The city council voted narrowly, 8–7, to remove $10 million from the police overtime budget and to place it in non-departmental reserves. That money will still technically be earmarked for police overtime, but the police chief cannot access it without coming back to the city council to ask for those funds to be released to him.
Chief Garcia has already said, unequivocally, that the department would need that $10 million — which is why the funding was included in the proposed police budget in the first place. Based on the data, the police chief had requested a reasonable amount. In addition, the police department had already proposed new controls and efficiency measures to reduce the demand for overtime spending (see page 33 of the proposed budget).
No other city department, including those that have gone over budget in overtime spending during the current fiscal year, would need to go through this two-step process.
Part of the rationale for this $10 million maneuver was that the city council had not yet received an audit of the police department’s use of overtime, which I requested last year in light of allegations that overtime had been abused. The city council’s angst was understandable; the audit had taken far longer than expected. If any evidence existed of such waste, it needed to be addressed promptly.
But the city auditor released his interim report Friday, the day after the vote. The upshot is that the auditor found no evidence of fraud or abuse.
I opposed the move to withhold the $10 million and will offer a new amendment to reverse this hurdle now that the auditor has come back with his interim report. Public Safety Committee Chairman Adam McGough has already said he supports the new amendment, and hopefully other city councilmembers will follow suit. You can contact your councilmember here to encourage them to sign on, too.
Every department should be prudent with taxpayer money. But it is clear that the requested amount of police overtime will be needed as long as violent crime remains too high and the department’s ranks are too thin.
The city council should commit now to giving the police department the resources it will need to fight crime in the fiscal year ahead. Public safety must come first.
Now, for some updates on implementation of the city’s public safety priorities. The full public safety priorities report for August is below. The numbers reflect where the city stood as of August 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: 1,108 (+20)
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: 543 (+11)
Number of blighted properties remediated by Neighborhood Nuisance Abatement: 35,698 (+5,156)
Number of blighted properties remediated by the Office of Integrated Public Safety Solutions, utilizing Code Compliance personnel within Risk Terrain Area: 1,749 (+227)
Number of violence interrupters funded by the City of Dallas: 1 organization with an 11-member team (No change)
Total number of murders and non‐negligent homicides year‐to‐date: 141 (+19)
Murder victims by race/ethnicity
Black: 88 (+14)
Hispanic: 37 (+5)
White: 14 (No change)
Other/unknown: 2 (No change)
Murders by City Council district
District 1: 8 (+2)
District 2: 12 (+3)
District 3: 14 (+2)
District 4: 16 (+3)
District 5: 8 (+1)
District 6: 14 (+2)
District 7: 24 (+1)
District 8: 17 (No change)
District 9: 2 (+1)
District 10: 14 (+1)
District 11: 3 (+1)
District 12: 1 (No change)
District 13: 4 (+2)
District 14: 4 (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: 56 (+11)
Number of 911 call takers on staff: 101 (+13)
Average 911 call holding time, in minutes and seconds, for the month: 6 seconds (-5 seconds)
Police civilianization, hiring, and overtime
Total amount of overtime funding expended to date in the current fiscal year: $30.68 million (+$2.78 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: 73 (+4)
Total number of police officers and trainees hired year‐to‐date: 120 (+3)
Total number of police officers and trainees who have resigned, retired, or have been terminated: 180 (+15)
Total number of police department civilian employees hired: 204 (+29)
Total number of police department civilian employees who have resigned, retired, or have been terminated: 86 (+2)
Police response times
Median police response times to priority 1 calls: 6 minutes, 33 seconds (+30 seconds)
Percentage of priority 1 calls receiving a response in under 8 minutes: 53.89% (+2.48%)
Median police response times to priority 2 calls: 21 minutes, 35 seconds (+4 minutes, 48 seconds)
Stay tuned for more updates on public safety and other matters. There’s a lot going on right now (including the continuing investigations into the data loss) at City Hall, and much more news is coming soon.
Hope you have a great week. And, by the way, congratulations to SMU football on its 2–0 start to the season! Good to have football back, and enjoyed joining University President Gerald Turner to flip the coin before the SMU home opener recently!
That’s all for today. Stay safe, stay healthy, and get vaccinated if you haven’t yet.