The hits, according to Officer Nick Novello, just keep on coming for the Dallas Police Department 's Central Patrol Division. Less than two weeks after being left with only a handful of officers — six by the department's count, five by Novello's — to respond to calls July 4 because of a protest, the patrol division that covers downtown Dallas and as far north as Mockingbird Lane was again severely short-staffed Sunday morning.
According to Novello, who's been a Dallas cop for more than 30 years, between 7 and 8 a.m. Sunday, only two officers, both bike cops, were available to respond to calls in the Central Patrol Division.
"After they sent two cops to the hospital to sit on a prisoner, they had to say to the two bike guys, 'Listen, until the 8 o'clock detail, you guys go ahead and answer calls,'" Novello says. "How do you even do that?"
When 8 a.m. rolled around and the officers with 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. shifts came on duty, eight officers were available to cover Central Patrol, still far fewer than what's necessary, Novello says.
When asked for a response to Novello's claims, DPD sent the Observer a copy of its response to Novello's assertions about July 4, detailing how 13 officers assigned to work the day shift for that date dwindled to six who were answering calls.
"I'm not running for an office. I'm not doing anything," Novello says. "I don't want anything from anybody. Just staff the streets."
According to the Dallas Police Association's latest estimates, DPD has about 2,800 officers on its payroll, 800 fewer than called for in the city budget. DPD and its new chief, U. Renee Hall, haven't been able to hire officers quickly enough to make up the gap.
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To that end, Novello met Monday with members of Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings' staff to push for more pay and better benefits, the only things he thinks will help bring staffing levels back up to where they need to be.
"I'm a schmuck. I'm just a beat cop," Novello says. "I'm not a walking cornucopia of solutions. All I know is [Dallas city leaders] have done this."
City Council member Philip Kingston, who represents the bulk of downtown, says he agrees with what Novello is asking for but doesn't share the belief that DPD is teetering on the brink of disaster.
"When I hear Officer Novello say, 'We don't have enough cops and they don't make enough money,' those are things I really agree with," Kingston says, "but when I hear him say, 'The world's going to end,' that's where it starts to sound a little Chicken Little."