Public Safety and the Way Forward

By Mayor Eric Johnson
Mayor of Dallas

Friend—

The new public safety stats for the month of December are now in, and I received the COVID-19 vaccine today. More on all that in a moment.

But first, it’s important to touch on what unfolded yesterday [January 6th] in Washington. I was saddened and deeply disgusted by the un-American and unacceptable rioting at the Capitol. This is a nation of peaceful processes, deliberation, law, and order. This country does not bow to violent mobs. Hopefully, all those responsible will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for their insurrection.

Here in Dallas, we have myriad disagreements on policy and procedure every day, and you’ll read about some of those disagreements later in this email. Such robust civil discourse is necessary and healthy to a democracy. It can help identify and solve problems, which means improving city government to better serve you. But just as I said during the summer after the chaos that ensued downtown, selfish lawlessness, such as looting and rioting and violence, cannot and should not be tolerated. That’s not the way to get things done. The rule of law must be respected.

So stay engaged in your government here at the local level. Reach out to your representatives. Understand that elections and votes on policies will be both won and lost by your side, and by the other side. Don’t become disaffected. Try to persuade with reason. Stay informed. And challenge your own views by listening to and considering other perspectives—as long as those views are grounded in facts.

The diversity of people, opinions, and experiences in this city—and in this country—is a strength. It should be celebrated. Unity can be good, if achievable, but homogeneous thinking and echo chambers can also be destructive. When you do disagree with others, it’s virtuous to co-exist with them and to respect their perspectives. That’s what this country is about.

While things have been tumultuous recently, the way forward is clear: People must go forth together, even as views will diverge on the best paths to take.

May God bless this great city and this great country. And may love and truth prevail over violence, hateful rhetoric, and false and reckless conspiracy theories.

Public safety progress report

Now, it’s time to talk about public safety here in Dallas. The city just finished the year with 252 murders—the most since 1998. Eddie Garcia, the incoming police chief, has said fighting violent crime is his top priority. He’ll have plenty of work to do when he gets here next month, and he’ll need to hit the ground running.

Below are the December numbers from the monthly progress report on public safety priorities. As always, changes since the last report are noted in parentheses. Remember that “+” isn’t necessarily positive and “-” isn’t always negative, depending on the category!

Task Force on Safe Communities implementation

Number of new streetlights installed as part of the Priority Improvement Zones: 678 (+241)

Number of new streetlights installed as part of the Digital Divide and Strategic Streetlighting Plan: 28 (+28)

Number of new streetlights installed as part of the environmental improvements for crime prevention plan: 30 (+30)

Number of blighted properties remediated by Neighborhood Nuisance Abatement: 10,180 (+5,761)

Number of blighted properties remediated by the Office of Integrated Public Safety Solutions, utilizing Code Compliance personnel within Risk Terrain Area: 301 (+162)

Number of violence interrupters funded by the City of Dallas: 0 (No change)

Murders

Total number of murders and non‐negligent homicides year‐to‐date: 252 (+27)

Murder victims by race/ethnicity

Black: 141 (+14)

Hispanic: 77 (+12)

White: 28 (+2)

Other/unknown: 6 (-1)

Murders by City Council district

District 1: 17 (+2)

District 2: 14 (No change)

District 3: 15 (+1)

District 4: 31 (+4)

District 5: 17 (+2)

District 6: 33 (+4)

District 7: 50 (+7)

District 8: 24 (+4)

District 9: 7 (No change)

District 10: 19 (+1)

District 11: 8 (No change)

District 12: 4 (No change)

District 13: 5 (+1)

District 14: 8 (+1)

(For your reference, here is a map of City Council districts. You can also find your representatives here).

Total number of murders and non‐negligent homicides during the current year in which no arrest has been made: 75 (-10)

911 calls

Number of 911 call takers on staff: 72 (-4)

Average 911 call holding time, in minutes and seconds: 15 seconds (+2 seconds)

Police civilianization, hiring, and overtime

Total amount of overtime funding expended to date in the current fiscal year: $8.1 million (+$3.8 million)

Total Dallas Police Department overtime budget allocated for the current fiscal year: $17.3 million (No change)

Total number of jobs transitioned from sworn officers to non‐sworn employees as part of KPMG civilianization plan: 24 (+24)

Total number of police officers and trainees hired year‐to‐date: 20 (+19)

Total number of police officers and trainees who have resigned, retired, or have been terminated: 45 (+19)

Total number of police department civilian employees hired: 39 (+10)

Total number of police department civilian employees who have resigned, retired, or have been terminated: 23 (+13)

Police response times

Median police response times to priority 1 calls: 6 minutes, 0 seconds (No change)

Percentage of priority 1 calls receiving a response in under 8 minutes: 54.66% (-9.91%)

Median police response times to priority 2 calls: 13 minutes, 46 seconds (+2 seconds)

You can read the original report as a PDF here.

Some takeaways: It’s great to see some progress in lighting and blight remediation. But police response times and 911 call waiting times still need a lot of work. The projected shrinking of the department can already be seen in the hiring and attrition numbers. And, unsurprisingly, police overtime expenditures through only three months of the fiscal year show that nearly half of the budgeted amount has already been spent. This comes after the City Council, as you know, unwisely voted to slash the proposed police overtime budget by 25 percent this fiscal year.

Another category that stands out here is violence interrupters. Not a single one has been hired yet, and currently, the most optimistic estimate is that the City Council will approve contracts sometime in the spring. The reason given at City Hall is that the city has to go through a lengthy procurement process.

Of course, some procurement processes can take longer than others. Sometimes, the length of those processes can reveal what the City Hall bureaucracy considers to be a priority.

For example, at Wednesday’s City Council briefing, the city manager’s office proposed a quick three-month timeline to hire consultants to help manage the redistricting process. That would allow the current City Council, which will be up for election in May, to have a say and appoint a redistricting commission before the next council can take office.

As you can see, it appears the procurement process to help redraw political district boundaries will be allowed to move forward rapidly—and much faster than is necessary. But violence interruption during a violent crime spike? That’s apparently a different story in their eyes.

The fiscal year budget, mind you, took effect October 1, 2020. But it was officially approved in September, and every iteration of the proposed budget, going back to August, included funding for violence interrupters. That means the best-case scenario is a six-month timeline from when the fiscal year began and an eight-month timeline from when the city manager proposed the budget. Now, look at the timeline again for redistricting. What does that tell you?

This is why you will keep seeing the refrain “public safety must come first” in these emails. Because that must be the mantra at City Hall. Too often, it hasn’t been.

Remember, you can contact your City Councilmembers and let them know about your priorities and where you’d like their focus to be.

COVID-19 vaccine

Today, I received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as part of Phase 1B at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

It was a quick, painless, and easy process.

The vaccine isn’t widely available yet, but more doses are on the way. The city recently finished vaccinating more than 2,000 first responders and is working on plans with Dallas County to offer shots to qualifying members of the public as soon as next week. These vaccines need to be distributed equitably across the city, and the plans will thankfully include distributions at Fair Park in South Dallas.

These immunizations will likely take months. But when it’s your turn, don’t wait (and do go back and get your second dose when it’s time). Hesitating will mean more lost lives and livelihoods. Vaccines have helped stop the spread of many serious diseases in human history and are the fastest and safest way to achieve herd immunity.

African Americans are unfortunately more skeptical of the vaccine than others. A Pew Research Center poll in December showed that only 42% of Black respondents said they were likely to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The history of reprehensible medical experimentation on African Americans has certainly added to the distrust. But there is no reason to fear these vaccines. They are safe and tested.

These vaccines are the way out of this pandemic and the way to get life back to normal. Be patient, stay informed, and be ready when your time comes.

That’s all for today. Take care of yourselves and each other.

Until next time,