From Texas Standard:
After the July shooting which killed five Dallas Police officers and wounded nine others, applications to join the force poured in. But that’s not happening anymore. The Dallas Police Department is losing offers faster than they can replace them, and the shortages are so severe task forces are being closed and officers are scrambling just to make sure 911 calls get answered.
"It's a continuation of a trend that has started over the past two years, but it seems to have worsened,” she says. many police officers – I'm told from some still on the force – were considering retirement and then things got a little bit scarier with the pension fund."
The police and fire department pension fund is facing a billion-dollar shortfall after big promises to pensioners and risky investments, so many officers have just decided to leave. Officers’ pay is also low, compared to other departments around the state. But the city council did approve 10 percent pay raise starting this past October.
To bring the number of police officers back up, the department is in the process of trying to hire about 449 officers in next year, but Tsiaperas says they'll need at least 3,700 applicants to fill those spaces.
There are only 30 new recruits in the incoming academy class, although the goal was 60 recruits. Tsiaperas says although the department did get an avalanche of applications after the Dallas shooting, but that didn’t necessarily mean the cadet class would grow.
"You also have to consider all the qualifications that those applicants have to meet,” she says. “They have to go through a rigorous testing process, they have to be physically fit, they have to go through background testing – and that can take several months. So many of them either found jobs at other departments in that period of time or some just didn't meet the basic requirements."
Dallas has seen an increase of violent crime this year. And Tsiaperas says police officers are struggling to keep up with it.
"They've tried many task forces to try to battle these issues," she says. "Criminologists will say that the police department needs to at least keep up with attrition to maintain the response times and ability to investigate crimes."
But it’s not a crisis yet, Tsiaperas says.
"It is concerning,” she says. “It is a continuation of an increase in crime in the past two years and an increase in the number of officers who are leaving the department. Potentially the city leaders have said that they could face bankruptcy if the pension fund fails and they’re also facing this decades-old back-pay lawsuit in relation to police and fire pay and if that happens then that is definitely a crisis."
Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.