Dallas Police Chief: Attrition Threatening City's Safety

David Pughes
David Pughes Dallas Police Department
The city of Dallas ongoing public safety is at risk after missing hiring targets and increasing officer attrition, interim Dallas Police Chief David Pughes said Monday. According to the chief, Dallas could dip below 3,000 police officers this summer, a staffing level Pughes identifies as a tipping point for the department's ability to perform its essential functions.

Since October 1, 2016, 244 officers have left the Dallas Police Department, officials said Wednesday. That leaves the department with 3,177 officers, 100 of which are academy trainees. Most of the officers leaving the department, 134 of the 244, have more than 20 years experience. According to a chart released to the public by Dallas City Council member Scott Griggs, another 120 officers are expected to leave before the end of the fiscal year in September.

"Every day that I get another retirement or resignation it bothers me. We're at a point now where we really need to be concerned about the [staffing] levels," Pughes said. "We're doing all we can to recruit and I'm doing all I can to encourage the officers we have to stay with us."

This fiscal year's attrition is expected to offset by only 200 new officers, according to DPD, leaving the department with an estimate 435 vacancies at the end of the year. Pughes said Monday that the department will bring in retired and reserve officers to fill in gaps. That's critical, Pughes said, as the city approaches its annual summer uptick in crime.

"We're at a point now where we really need to be concerned " Police Chief David Pughes on staff levels

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"I'm actually excited about the possibility of bringing retirees back in whatever capacity they can work," Pughes said.

The department will also allow officers to work overtime over the summer, something Pughes said he didn't allow during the first part of the year, and enable officers to file police reports online, keeping them in the field for longer stretches.

"I've been trying to save that [overtime] money because I know we're going to need it down the road," Pughes said. "That's been part of our strategy to get the most we can out of the personnel we have."

According to numbers presented by Pughes to the Dallas City Council's Public Safety Committee, Dallas murder, sexual assault and overall crime rates are all slightly down so far in 2017 when compared to 2016, Violent crime is up overall, however, thanks to an 18 percent increase in aggravated assaults.

Dallas City Council member Adam McGough said that Pughes seemed to facing an impossible challenge. "It sounds like the perfect storm that's coming," McGough said of the city's ongoing pension crisis and loss of officers. "I don't feel like we're ready, but thank you for what you're doing and how you're trying."

If the estimated attrition chart shared by Griggs is correct, DPD will not reach its authorized number of officers for more than a decade. If the department successfully hires 250 officers per fiscal year, something it won't do in 2016-2017, and attrition drops to 200 officers per year, by 2021-2022, DPD will be appropriately staffed by 2029-2030.

click to enlarge DALLAS POLICE
Dallas Police
"We are so short on officers that the BEST case scenario is completing our re-hiring by 2029-2030! And the chart assumes we have less than 3 officers per 1,000 residents in the future," he said on Facebook.
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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