A couple months before Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle took over for Terrell Bolton, the city council approved a $485,000 efficiency study of the department to be conducted by Berkshire Advisors, which, in September 2004, recommended the reallocation of officers and reorganization of management. Kunkle ultimately civilianized approximately 160 sworn positions because of the high cost of training and paying police officers to perform the same duties.
So as the current council considers a budget that will leave 191 civilians at the Dallas Police Department without jobs as part of cost-cutting measures to reduce the city's $190 million deficit while, at the same time, 200 new officers are scheduled to be hired, we wondered if the department might fall back into the same trap if sworn officers are eventually needed to perform the duties left behind by the civilians.
"It's not an equal swap," Kunkle tells Unfair Park. "There's some things that we've historically done that we're probably going to quit doing. At the same time, we're going to increase the number of officers on the streets, improve response times, hopefully reduce crime and create a safer public place."
He stresses that he will ensure that any cuts won't be backfilled with sworn officers and says it's not appropriate for him to judge whether or not it's necessary to hire extra officers or proper to do so during a budget crisis.
"It's going to be a policy issue whether we hire those extra cops or not -- that's a call of the city council," Kunkle says. "Governments should set priorities, and it's a priority to grow the department. And I understand that."
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City Manager Mary Suhm says while some people may fear sworn officers will be moved into the vacated civilian positions at some point, that's not the intent of the job cuts. The layoffs aim to save money by reducing or eliminating some services and lowering expectations in other areas.
"Things are going to have to be done less, slower or less efficient," she says. "There's not a choice here."
While acknowledging that more than 400 future officers are in the pipeline who haven't completed their training, Suhm says the manifestation of having public safety as a top priority is a commitment to hire more officers annually. None of the council members have expressed a desire to eliminate hiring another 200 officers, but she says some have said to "slow down."
Kunkle says 350 new officers will hit the streets between now and March 2011, even if the council balks at hiring more. He estimates hiring 200 more officers at roughly $3 million in this year's budget, which balloons to $18 million in future budgets when accounting for a full year's salary, cars and equipment.