In the aftermath of Micah Johnson's July 7 attack on Dallas police officers, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and other city officials made it clear that fixing DPD's attrition problem would be a top-priority. The draft version of the city of Dallas' upcoming budgeted, presented to the city council by Dallas City Manager A.C. Gonzalez on Tuesday, shows that city staff is serious. And it comes with a price tag.
The new budget calls for hiring 549 new cops at a cost of $13.9 million over the next year, in addition to 50 civilian public safety officers. An additional $4.4 million would be spent on additional protective equipment for officers, and the city would also kick in money to continue making safety improvements to Dallas Police facilities across the city. The department's younger officers would also be given $14 million in raises to compensate for the low salaries with which they were hired.
Most of the new officers (349) would simply take the place of officers who've already left the department, but, if all the slotted positions were filled, the total number of sworn Dallas police officers would increase from 3,511 to 3,711.
Dallas City Council member Jennifer Gates questioned the department's ability to hire that many officers in one year and suggested that the money could be better allocated to giving existing officers raises, an idea that's been pushed by Dallas Police Association President Ron Pinkston.
Dallas Police Chief David Brown disagreed with Gates. "Our officers are tired; their anxiety is really high," Brown said. "We're sending the same couple hundred cops to protests that were downtown on July 7."
Brown said that the department has previously hired as many as 420 officers in a year, and that was without Gonzalez' proposed increase in starting pay for rookie officers. Since the shooting, Brown said, the department has received 760 applications, more than the first sixth months of the year combined, and expects to receive 260 more at on-site police testing later this month.
"We're seen as the best department in the country [after the shooting]," Brown said, before adding that the city needs to pay new officers if it wants to keep them.
Some 62.2 percent of the proposed budget is set to be allocated to public safety efforts — almost $733 million between the police and fire department, up from $690 million this year. Much of the money that would be headed to public safety comes at the expense of projects Dallas residents identified as more important when they were surveyed about budget priorities — chiefly, the city's crumbling streets and the loose dog problem in southern Dallas — but that survey was taken before the shooting. Now, streets are set to get just over $100 million — enough to keep them from deteriorating, but not enough to make them any better.
All of the numbers put forward by Gonzalez could change over the next couple of months as the budget heads toward final approval and as the city meets with the DPD associations to hammer out the details of the potential bump in funding, but it seems certain that police and fire are going to get a healthy new chunk of money from the city.
"I'm thrilled we're all aligned," Rawlings said Tuesday. "We love our police and fire and want to give them raises."
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