Editorial other views

The following editorial published in The Dallas Morning News on Aug. 27:

The city of Dallas has waited months for an outside consultant to come up with an answer to this question.

How many police officers does Dallas need?

Well, the study is in, and we’re still waiting. And the wait is frustrating.

The KPMG study, briefed to the City Council on Monday, points out personnel shortages in patrol but doesn’t propose the number of officers the department needs. Part of the reason, the study concludes, is that data quality was a consistent problem. Another reason is that many police procedures and assumptions are outdated.

As a result, this report provides sometimes confusing guidance on staffing. One analysis suggests increasing the “working” patrol staff of 1,406 in the seven patrol divisions by a total of 225 officers. Another scenario notes that the city could add 20 patrol officers to increase those ranks to 1,426 and make up the difference with 796 overtime hours required weekly. Another scenario suggests the city could add 703 patrol officers to increase the total number to 2,109.

Nonetheless, the bottom line to this report is particularly instructive. It strongly states that Dallas police needed to do a better job of prioritizing resources and that the organization lacks the tools to quantify the level of inefficiency. At the same time, the report noted that adding officers based solely on a percentage of Dallas’ population is shortsighted and counterproductive to the goal of reducing crime.

While we don’t find the lack of staffing guidance comforting, the most important takeaway in this report is the warning that Dallas shouldn’t just hire more officers into an inefficient structure.

The report bluntly concludes the department “lacks a clear strategy and is more reactive to the issues of the day.” At the patrol officer level, “staff appear unclear of the overall strategic direction for the department as they receive conflicting direction from the department as to what the priority is, either response times or crime fighting.” And, according to the report, the investigations bureau suffers from a similar “lack of a clear crime strategy.”

A city can’t arrest its way out of crime, nor can it effectively fight crime if resources aren’t properly deployed. Increasing staffing is an important step but will not have the desired results if the underlying core isn’t overhauled.

Ending inefficient practices should be part of a five-year strategic plan and focus on realigning patrol, investigations and other operations toward clearly articulated strategies.

The next step is for city manager T.C. Broadnax, Police Chief U. Renee Hall and City Council members to acknowledge that reducing crime requires a comprehensive approach. The city’s crime-fighting approach amounts to playing whack-a-mole, which ensures that once a problem is “handled,” the same problem will pop up somewhere else.

This study has been something the department and city management have constantly pointed to as a starting point for reform and rebuilding.

Well, the study is in. Get started.

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