In a press statement on Tuesday, Johnson also called for a pay bump for first responders and said that “public safety must come first.”
“While we cannot depend on police alone to prevent crime, our officers play a unique role in taking dangerous people — especially repeat offenders — off our streets,” Johnson said. “Our police department has been strained in recent years by short staffing, which has necessitated substantial police overtime spending.”
The mayor also said that the city should expand its police force “to meet the demands of our residents and to make our communities safer and stronger.” The current fiscal year’s budget and an initial draft of the coming fiscal year’s budget only provide for 150 new officers, according to a July 15 memo from Johnson to Broadnax.
Adding 275 officers would also be “70 officers above the expected attrition.”
According to the city manager’s office, the Dallas Police Department (DPD) has hired and trained 77 officers so far this fiscal year, and 144 officers have resigned, retired, or otherwise lost their jobs. This has created a net loss of 67 police officers so far.
DPD was the center of controversy last year when the city council chose to cut 25 percent of the department’s overtime budget for the current fiscal year. Following the budget cut and a series of other dustups, then-Chief Renee Hall left her post in December.
Johnson has been an ardent supporter of the department and actively fought a movement to divert funds away from the department during last year’s budget talks. The mayor called the DPD overtime cut “unconscionable” and proposed cutting the salaries of high-level city employees instead.
Councilwoman Cara Mendelsohn is the chair of the Government Performance & Financial Management Committee. In an interview with The Texan, Mendelsohn emphasized her priorities for the coming year’s budget, which include increasing the property tax exemption for seniors and persons with disabilities, decreasing property taxes in general, and more funding for law enforcement personnel.
Mendelsohn, who easily won reelection in May, supported the mayor’s request and recalled her opposition to the 25 percent cut to the police’s overtime allotment, characterizing it as “very unwise” and part of the reason she voted against the final version of the city’s budget.
The councilwoman indicated the city council failed to honor a commitment to the Dallas Police Association to offer market-based raises for officers despite having over $50 million of new tax dollars available to the council.
“There were a lot of conversations about the role of policing, the financial costs of policing, training, community engagement, [and] other resources to help lower crime last year, and these are all good conversations for us to have,” Mendelsohn told The Texan.
“But make no mistake, Dallas residents want more police officers, and that is in every part of the city. They say the same thing — we need more police officers. It’s taking too long for them to show up because there’s just not enough people to answer all these calls.”
In addition to calling for more 911 dispatchers, Mendelsohn supports hiring enough police to maintain a staff of 3,200 uniformed officers.
“Public safety is the most important thing the city of Dallas does. And we have to get it right, and with violent crime rising as it is, we’re not getting it right,” Mendelsohn said.
“[W]hat we’re hearing over and over again from our public safety professionals is they need more officers, and I’m going to support them and make sure they get what they need to be successful.”
The current Dallas police chief, Eddie Garcia, took office in February after Broadnax hired him in December. In a television appearance, Garcia recently emphasized the importance of community support of the police and resisted the idea that access to guns is the primary driver of an uptick in violent crime.
The mayor and city council are tasked with debating, amending, and approving a budget for the next fiscal year, which begins on October 1. Last year’s debate was particularly contentious given the added financial stress of anti-police riots, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the tornadoes that affected North Texas in the fall of 2019.