To get a great top cop, Dallas city officials are preparing to pay up.
City Manager T.C. Broadnax is asking the Dallas City Council to give him the authority to pay more than the top rate of $213,000. He's asking for the sole power to determine what to pay Dallas' next chief.
The request is on the agenda for Wednesday.
Broadnax did not respond to a request for comment, but Mayor Mike Rawlings was willing to talk about it.
“You've got pay make sure you pay the right salary to get the right candidate,” Rawlings said in an interview at his office. “This is too important for the safety of the citizens of Dallas to say we can't pay more, that's a bad, bad reason not to hire somebody.”
Broadnax announced eight finalists for the top job last week. They include three internal candidates: Assistant Chief Gary Tittle and deputy chiefs Malik Aziz and Rick Watson. There are also finalists from Detroit, Seattle and Los Angeles.
He could hire a chief as soon as next month. The chief candidates are slated for three days of interviews and panels starting July 10.
Dallas has long had trouble attracting candidates for the top job because of its low pay structure. The city pays officers at all levels significantly less than many of its peer departments.
Before he left in October, David Brown was making about $208,000 a year. Fort Worth Chief Joel Fitzgerald and San Antonio Chief William McManus make about $205,000 a year heading their respective departments. Art Acevedo earns $280,000 to head the 5,200 officer Houston Police Department.
The idea of paying a chief more is a tough sell to the Dallas rank and file.
The city agreed to pay raises last year.
For many, those raises will be wiped away in a few months. Police officers will see their tax home pay drastically cut to fix a failing pension fund when the new pension law takes effect Sept. 1.
“I'm a big believer. You get what you pay for,” says Mike Mata, president of the Dallas Police Association. “You want a quality chief, you’re going to have to give a quality package. But how about the rank and file who have been doing more with less for the last 12 years?”
Mata, like may veteran officers, will take about a nine percent pay cut once his pension contributions increase. Many veteran officers are choosing to retire, further exacerbating the department’s staffing woes. The department has about 3,100 officers and is on course to drop below 3,000 by September.
Sgt. Sheldon Smith, chief of staff of Black Police Association of Greater Dallas, says the officers he’s talked to aren’t upset about paying the chief more.
“They say, ‘Ok, you want to pay the chief, you got to pay us, too,” Smith said. “Just as the city manager recognizes it's going to take money to maintain a good chief, he also has to recognize that it's going to take money to maintain good officers on the department.”
Smith says it will cost him about $10,000 more a year in additional pension contributions.
Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway, back on the job for just for one week, supports paying a new chief more so that the city can attract the best talent. But he wants a discussion about raising rank and file officer across the board.
“You want to keep the morale up,” he says. “You don't want to lower the morale any lower than what it already is.”
Rawlings did not want to connect the issue of the police chief’s pay and rank and file pay.
“This is about the city and let’s do it the right way in hiring the right police chief and having the resources to compensate the police chief is incredibly important,” he said.
There is no doubt whoever gets the job, they will face many problems in a department filled with them.