Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall Unveils Pipeline From High School to Squad Car

Officers attend the 2017 Dallas police memorial.
Officers attend the 2017 Dallas police memorial. Brian Maschino
Among the biggest immediate challenges faced by Dallas police Chief U. Renee Hall is the riddle of the Dallas Police Department's recruitment and retention. The department hemorrhaged officers in early 2017 as the tenure of her predecessor ended, dipping from 3,700 officers at the department's peak to about 3,000 officers, a 10-year low.

On Monday, Hall unveiled her three-tiered strategy for fully staffing her department, including more focused hiring, recruiting incentives for a current officers and a new initiative that will see DPD hiring Dallas ISD students out of high school.

Hall hopes to hire 250 officers during the 2017-18 fiscal year, a 60-officer bump over 2016-17. But it's far from the nearly 400 officers per year the department hired from fiscal years 2006-07, when the city implemented new hiring incentives, to 2010-11, when the city implemented a hiring freeze for new applicants.

To ramp up hiring to rebuild the force, Hall has a series of short-, medium- and long-term plans. First on the agenda, the chief said Monday, is focusing recruiting efforts in Texas — as recently as this year, DPD headed to Detroit to recruit new officers — so that Dallas officers look more like the communities they serve and are more likely to stay around. Twenty-eight of the 35 new officers set to graduate in this month's academy class are Texans, Hall says.

In January, DPD will begin its "Every Officer Is a Recruiter" plan. For each recruit a DPD officer brings into Dallas' police academy, that officer will get an additional two or three days of time off. If the recruit graduates from the academy, the officer gets another two or three days. Tying incentives to recruits' success will foster mentoring relationships among officers and the academy trainees they bring in.

Hall also plans to re-evaluate disqualifying factors that ban individuals from becoming DPD officers if they admit to certain events in the past, like using drugs or committing minor criminal offenses. The department evaluates any admitted drug use on a case-by-case basis, examining the type of drugs and when they were used. Any person with a Class A misdemeanor on his or her record can't serve, nor can anyone with a Class B misdemeanor from the last 10 years.

"We recognize that when you do something when you're 17 years old and you do something silly or stupid, you are a different person at 24 years old," Hall said.

As the department moves forward, it will begin a new program aimed at Dallas high school students interested in being police officers. In June 2018, DPD plans to hire its first set of new high school graduates as supplemental public service officers. Those recruits will attend El Centro College downtown and receive tuition reimbursement from the department.

Once students in the program finish 45 credit hours and reach the age of 19 years and 6 months, they'll be eligible to participate in the Dallas police academy and become full-fledged officers.

"We recognize that most of the individuals in this community attend DISD, so we want to make sure that we're targeting those individuals," Hall said.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young