Mayor Eric Johnson is calling for the city manager’s next budget to include funding to hire 275 police officers and to provide market-rate salary increases for first responders.
“Public safety must come first,” Mayor Johnson said. “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. Our police department has been strained in recent years by short staffing, which has necessitated substantial police overtime spending. We can and must do better. We need to grow our police force again to meet the demands of our residents and to make our communities safer and stronger.”
The mayor’s request was one of several of his top budget priorities communicated in a memo to City Manager T.C. Broadnax. In August, the city manager will propose his budget, which the City Council can vote to amend before final approval. The next fiscal year starts Oct. 1.
The current budget allocates funding to hire only 150 officers this fiscal year and another 150 next fiscal year. Following that plan would reduce the police force by 110 officers over two years. So far this year, the police department has lost a net of 67 officers, according to the latest public safety priorities report provided to the mayor by the city manager’s office.
If the City Council budgets to hire 275 police officers next fiscal year, it would effectively reverse the current year’s reduction and begin to grow the department, which shrank by hundreds of officers during the 2016-17 pension crisis. The city will have additional funding available this year through the American Res- cue Plan Act; President Joe Biden has encouraged cities to use those federal COVID-19 relief funds to hire law enforcement personnel.
Because police officer hiring has sometimes lagged behind the City Council’s goals in past years, Mayor Johnson is also advocating for the creation of a lateral hiring program to bolster recruitment efforts. Other cities have used such programs to lure police officers away from the Dallas Police Department.
The mayor is also advocating for funding to help fix long-lingering 911 call center staffing issues and for additional funding for the Mayor’s Task Force on Safe Communities pro- grams, which include violence interrupters and blight remediation.