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Dallas chief ready to demote some on force to get more cops on streets

The Dallas Police Department is about to undergo a shake-up — including possible demotions — to put more officers on patrol


By Tasha Tsiaperas
The Dallas Morning News

DALLAS — The Dallas Police Department is about to undergo a shake-up — including possible demotions — to put more officers on patrol. 

Hundreds of officers have left the department in the last year, leaving fewer officers working the streets. In that time, officers have been slower to respond to emergency calls. 

Chief U. Renee Hall said Monday she plans to significantly reduce the number of assistant chiefs and deputy chiefs who oversee the department. She is also considering reducing the number of detectives in investigative units and officers serving on task forces.

Her plan may mean that some officers serving as assistant chief could be demoted to lieutenant and that some detectives could be put in patrol, which Hall called the "backbone" of the department. 

"We've lost nearly 500 officers, so we need to reflect that at the top," she said. "I'm assessing the Police Department as a whole."

Hall shared her plans to combat spikes in crime and reduce response times Monday at a meeting of the City Council's public safety committee.

Between Oct. 1, 2016, and Sept. 30, 458 officers resigned or retired, primarily because of worries about the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System fund. During that time, the department hired 190 officers.

The department is down to 3,072 officers — well below the budgeted 3,600.

Hall said she is working on plans to reduce crime in long-blighted neighborhoods, increase staffing and bring down response times. Hall, who has been on the job for only a month, asked council members for "a little bit of grace" as she develops way to improve the department. 

So far this year, it has taken the department an average of 8 minutes and 20 seconds to respond to the highest priority calls, such as shootings, compared with a little more than 7 minutes and 30 seconds last year. 

Lowest-priority calls, such as property crimes, have taken as long as an hour and 15 minutes, compared with about an hour last year. 

Council member Jennifer Staubach Gates, who represents parts of North Dallas, told the chief lowering response times needs to be a priority. She said a resident in her district waited 22 minutes for officers to arrive after a home invasion. 

Gates wants the department's resources to be put toward patrol staffing. 

"I need to be telling citizens we've got the right numbers out there to keep them safe," Gates said.

Dallas Police Association president Michael Mata called the lengthy response times "ridiculous." 

It's unclear exactly how Hall will restructure the department to streamline police response. She said she will be interviewing command staff for the deputy chief and assistant chief positions. 

Mata said change is necessary, even if it's uncomfortable for many officers. 

"She needs to get more police on the street," he said. 

Hall has said she is talking to as many officers as she can to get to know how the department works. Mata said the chief is "respectful of the street officers and their families." 

"She's doing a good job of talking to as many rank-and-file as she can," he said. "That was missing in our last administration." 

But Hall said it's not enough to just get officers to the scene quickly. There needs to be enough detectives to investigate crimes. 

Dallas police are battling a spike in business robberies and burglaries. Overall, crime is down this year compared with last year, when violent crime rates rose. 

But certain types of businesses — cellphone stores, dollar stores, convenience stores — have been targeted in robberies. And many of the perpetrators have been juveniles. 

Four people were linked to 11 robberies in northern Dallas and six people were linked to 17 robberies in the southern sector. 

Hall said she is sending officers to do random check-ins at the types of businesses that have been targeted. 

"When police are there, we see a reduction in crime," she said. 

©2017 The Dallas Morning News

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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