City Hall

Police, Fire Associations Want to Know If City's Using Super Bowl to Violate Meet and Confer

I was looking for something completely unrelated on the Dallas County Civil District Court website this afternoon when I came across the petition you'll find after the jump, which was filed one week ago today. In it, attorney Haakon Donnelly -- on behalf of, among others, the Dallas Police Association, the Dallas Fraternal order of Police Lodge 588 and the Dallas Black Firefighters Association -- alleges that the city, in assigning on-duty officers to officially sanctioned Super Bowl events, may be violating terms of a deal struck with law-enforcement officials referred to as the Meet & Confer Agreement.

The petitioners demand to take the depositions of Dallas Police Chief David Brown and Dallas Fire Chief Eddie Burns "for the purpose of ascertaining the propriety of filing litigation against the City of Dallas."

By way of background, perhaps you recall: Faced with that $131-million budget shortfall last year, City Manager Mary Suhm asked police officers and firefighters to take a 2 percent cut in pay. In exchange, city officials offered (among other things) to rewrite the Special Events Ordinance to require the hiring of only Dallas Police Department and Dallas Fire Rescue officers should those holding special-events permits need law enforcement.

Per the DPD's Super Bowl XLV Operational Overview given to the city council's Public Safety Committee Tuesday, there will be some 44 NFL-sanctioned events citywide, on top of "at least eighty-six unsanctioned and thirty-one private known events occurring in Dallas," for which officers will be needed. Says the briefing:

Police & Fire personnel resources will be assigned to key venues for duration of operational period ... Other Police Resources will be assigned to maintain the capability of immediate response to incidents ... [and there will be] limited assignment of Police personnel to regional command posts or liaison positions.
Donnelly says most of those tasks would -- or should -- qualify as special events that would involve the use of off-duty personnel, who would be paid overtime.

"What we understand is on-duty officers are being rescheduled from on-duty assignments to provide security for events, like those at the Anatole," he says. "This would normally be a special event." He also says officers are being shuffled from their regular duties to Super Bowl duties. "And when we take officers from their normal on-duty assignments," he says, "they are now not able to do their normal work, which means someone else has to do their work or it doesn't get done."

Adds the petition: "The City is rescheduling officers to work as 'on-duty' personnel for these events, thereby reducing the number of officers normally and rightfully intended to work for the safety and benefit of the public good and taxpaying citizens of the City of Dallas. In doing so, and ignoring its agreement with the Petitioners, the City is effectively utilizing taxpayer funds to subsidize security for these private events."

Rank-and-file officers to whom I spoke today say, yes, there has been much teeth-gnashing and hand-wringing over Super Bowl duties. And Deputy Chief Charles Cato, who defers specific questions about the petition to the City Attorney's Office or city managers, acknowledges that he and other higher-ups in the department have been "trying to work some issues" with officers. Still, he says, "I don't believe the public's being put at risk. It's a job, and we need to get it done."

Messages were left today for City Manager Mary Suhm and Assistant City Manager Ryan Evans; I've also reached out to City Attorney Tom Perkins for comment. Donnelly says he's filed an open records request with the city for further information about DPD and DFR duties during the Super Bowl. The docs were due today, he says, but so far have not been received. Updates forthcoming.Rule 202 petition

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky