More Than Money at Stake for Dallas Police Looking to Move to Suburbs

When Lt. Wes Colvin, head of recruiting and training for the Frisco Police Department, finds himself in competition with other local agencies for new recruits, he has a laundry list of selling points for coming to work in this small community north of Dallas.

The pay and education incentives at the agency, which has spots for 200 officers and currently about 170 on the payroll, are competitive. Frisco is highly rated on education and public safety. Pro sports and entertainment are a short distance away. The community has a comfortable relationship with the police because officers have the time and resources to spend on community oriented policing.

"That means a lot to the officers who may come from another city where that relationship isn't there," he said. "We haven't had that major event that has turned the climate in Frisco. We don't expect to have it."

And as a community of 160,000 that's expected to double its population in the not-so-distant future, Frisco can offer its police officers opportunities for promotion and specialized positions as the department — expected to double in size in the next 10 to 15 years — grows along with the population, he said.

"It's a big selling point for us," he said.

Contrast that with his counterparts at the Dallas Police Department, who are grappling with how to retain and attract officers in a fiscally and politically challenging climate — one being faced by large cities across the nation. Citizen-police tensions run high, and pay often does not.

It's easy to see why smaller communities like Frisco don't even consider Dallas as part of their competition for new recruits. Once an officer decides he or she doesn't need to work in the big city, the larger departments rarely have anything better to offer than small places like Frisco.

Lewisville, Allen, McKinney, Plano, Little Elm, and a couple hundred more in North Texas alone: They are Frisco's competition.

"We're all going after the same people," Colvin said, chuckling. "With small communities, it's who can get them in first."

Colvin, who left the Dallas Police Department for family reasons nearly a decade ago after five years on the job there, can think of only two times since he was hired when officers left Frisco to go work in Dallas.

Mostly, when people leave the Frisco Police Department, "They're either retiring or getting out of the [police] profession altogether," he said.

"We don't have a lot of officers going to other agencies unless they're moving up, like becoming police chief in a small town," he said.

As for those who are arriving in Frisco from Dallas or similar cities, he said, they tend to have about five years' experience and are looking for a change of pace, a quiet community to raise a family, and growth opportunities.

Maybe they're fleeing community tensions or job stress, he said, but if they are, they don't mention that. Recruits from Dallas, he said, don't seem to have any issues specific to Dallas, even after a sniper killed five on-duty police officers in July.

Colvin still keeps in touch with his old police academy buddies there and said he expected to hear from them and other rattled Dallas officers looking to leave after the shootings, but he didn't.

"There were a few questions here or there, people asking about lateral transfers, stuff like that," he said. "But nothing special. Nobody saying, 'Hey, get me out of here.' None of that."

For his part, Colvin quit the Dallas Police Department for Frisco because he wanted to be closer to family. It had nothing to do with any conditions in Dallas, he said.

"For me it was a commuting thing," he said, explaining why he changed jobs, not just his address. "I loved every minute of working there. It was just a family change that was better for me on a personal level."