DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A Dallas Police Academy graduate who was set to begin working for the police department Monday, instead turned in her resignation.

The 34 recruits in Academy Class #359 graduated on Friday, offering hope of much needed reinforcement to the department’s dwindling number of officers.

“It’s disappointing, certainly,” said Deputy Chief Bill Humphrey, who oversees personnel and training, of the new officer’s quick departure.

Humphrey recalled another recruit this year who left two days before graduation. “She was going to work for [the] Allen Police Department, City of Allen. They had hired her,” he said.  “When you have officers who can make 15, 16, $17,000 more in another city, that speaks to some people.”

An e-mail from Assistant Chief Angela Shaw dated Tuesday shows nine officers of 167 who’ve graduated from the Dallas Police Academy within the last year are no longer with the department. According to the data provided, two recruits left two days after graduation; another quit after six days.

(credit: Dallas Police Department)

“We’re paying for them to be trained, as well as we’re paying them a salary while they’re being trained, and we’re losing them,” said city council member Jennifer Gates, whose questions prompted Shaw’s e-mail.

On Wednesday city staff estimated Dallas spends about $90,000 on each academy graduate, but there’s nothing requiring them to stay and work for the Dallas Police Department.

“I’ve got a lot of residents in Dallas that are like, “‘What?! We can’t require this?’” said Gates.

“We do pay for all the training. That’s correct, but once you’re out of the Academy, there’s no binding contract. You can stay or you can leave,” confirmed Humphrey.

Smaller police departments in nearby suburbs, that require applicants to already have a Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) license, can sometimes pay better starting salaries, too, enticing officers to jump ship.

“So, essentially, we’re paying for other municipalities’ law enforcement officers to get their TCOLE license,” said Gates.

Council members Wednesday discussed strategies to improve officer retention. And the problem isn’t limited to the police department. Dallas Fire Rescue Chief David Coatney told the city council that he too is losing recruits to higher paying departments. “They’re moving away from us after we train them,” he said.

City staff estimated Dallas pays $46,000 for each recruit who goes through the fire academy.
A DFR spokesperson confirmed nothing commits those new firefighters to work for the City of Dallas once they’re certified.

Gates says she hadn’t received a clear answer on why the city can’t require academy graduates serve the city for a set period of time. “The lawyers have told us we haven’t been able to do that,” she told CBS 11 News.

She did say she’d like to see the city recoup some of the expense of certifying officers if they move to another department soon after graduating.

With the city council debating a possible increase in police and fire salaries as part of ongoing budget talks, though, some officers argue higher wages are the solution. If they were paid better, they tell CBS 11, they wouldn’t be so tempted to leave.