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DALLAS (CBS11) – CBS11 has learned Dallas city leaders may be backing away from their initial plan to hire 549 new police officers in one year.

In a memo obtained by CBS11, Mayor Mike Rawlings tells city council members that, “…City Manager A.C. Gonzalez and Police Chief David Brown have informed me that they are exploring the possibility of phasing the hiring of those officers over three years instead of one year…”

Mayor Rawlings went onto say, “I agree with both of them in their assessment that we must grow our force back up in order to best protect Dallas residents. However, this alternative proposal may be more sustainable, as some of you have suggested…”

Some council members say they believe the city should hire fewer new officers and give all existing officers in the department an across-the-board pay raise.

Under the current plan by Chief Brown and City Manager Gonzalez, 70 percent of the officers would see pay increases.

The rest would not because they’re already at the higher end of the pay scale.

That plan was originally backed by Mayor Rawlings and other council members including Lee Kleinman.

The associations and some council members say they believe giving all officers a raise will keep them from moving to higher paying jobs at other departments across North Texas.

“He’s proposing to put more water in the bucket before he fixes the hole in the bucket. Let’s stop our professionals from fleeing the department, and then we’ll worry about head count in the next couple of budget cycles,” said Councilman Philip Kingston.

“We met with the city manager and staff last Friday. Our meet and confer team did and I think they’re going to meet early next week again. It’s still a work in progress. The city has proposed only a 5 percent correction and there’s still a 25 percent (pay) gap. That’s not going to get it. I think both sides will work together and come to a conclusion that is something everyone can agree on,” said the President of the Dallas Police Association, Ron Pinkston.

CBS11 reached out to Chief Brown Monday afternoon to determine what impact, if any, the new proposal he and the city manager are considering, would have on raises for officers but as of Monday evening he had not responded.

In his memo to council, Mayor Rawlings said the city manager would brief them next week about their latest hiring plan.

The latest wrinkle in the hiring plan for police officers comes as the Mayor and council members warn the public about a 20 year old lawsuit involving pay for officers and firefighters.

If the city loses the lawsuit, Councilman Kleinman says they could be forced to pay between $2 billion and $3 billion in back pay and additional money for pensions.

“You’re looking at if the city were to lose that pay lawsuit, I think the potential to bankrupt the city is there,” said Kleinman.

He, other council members and Mayor Rawlings say they believe the city has done nothing wrong and say they won’t settle the lawsuit.

Mayor Rawlings says the police and fire associations should sit down with city leaders to resolve this — along with fixing their pension system and agreeing on pay raises. “A lot of them have signed up for this lawsuit and I don’t know how they in their right mind sign up for a lawsuit and understand there’s not going to be any money for this stuff over here.”

CBS11 asked Pinkston about the lawsuit that could soon go to trial and the threat of bankruptcy if the city loses.

“The associations have reached out to the Mayor and city council and say hey, we need to mediate this,” said Kingston.   “Let’s come to a resolution by talking to each other. But again, the Mayor and council assure us they’re going to win. The probability of losing is low, but it would be catastrophic.”

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