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DALLAS (CBS11) – The statistic may have been expected, but some say it’s still alarming.
Interim Dallas Police Chief David Pughes told city council members Monday that 99 officers have left the department since October 1.
City councilman Philip Kingston is among those who blame the situation on the cash-starved police and fire pension fund.
“It’s concerning, but it’s not very surprising with the turmoil surrounding the pension system,” said Kingston.
In a statement, Mayor Mike Rawlings said, “This is why we are working so hard to address our pension crisis.”
The Dallas Police Association said in any given year, about 180 officers leave the department — either to retire or work at higher-paying departments.
About half the number have left in a two and a half month period.
The incoming president of the Dallas Police Association, Mike Mata sayid “It’s a huge difference in numbers.”
Pughes told council members the department is about 400 officers short.
Only 13 officers are part of the motor jockey squad who monitor school zones.
In a normal year, that squad is nearly three times bigger.
And Mata said that’s not the only impact.
“I think most of those 99 were tenured officers, so those are our most experienced officers, the majority investigative detectives who solve crimes everyday,” said Mata.
Councilman Kingston acknowledges the department’s challenge. “I think Chief Pughes is going to have to be creative. There’s nothing we can do to fix that in the short term. He has the number of officers he has and he has got to get results using those officers.”
To that end, Chief Pughes told the council the department is now training officers to work on gang enforcement.
The council is also looking to increases pay to first responders.
After months of negotiations, city council members will vote Wednesday on a new contract not only for police officers, but firefighters and paramedics as well.
Under the terms, most police officers, firefighters and paramedics would receive merit increases of ten percent the first year, five percent the second year, and ten percent the third year.
That will help make up for a freeze in merit pay for the past four years to help the city during the recession.
The first responders who are no longer eligible for merit increases will receive a two percent raise for each year during the next three years.
The Dallas Police Association and a city council member say they think the raises will help keep younger officers from leaving for other departments.
“Those individuals who possibly were thinking of leaving, yes, I think this prevents them from leaving. It helps them stay,” said Mata. “So it was definitely a move in the right direction.”
“It was important to get those numbers up what our younger officers can make at other places,” said Kingston. “It’s just the right thing to do in general.”
He says the council will pay for the increases by using additional money from rising property and sales tax revenues.
The city also abandoned the idea of hiring 200 additional police officers over attrition.
Councilman Kingston says he expects the council to pass the increases unanimously.
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