Dallas budget may force cut of new officer jobs

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by BRAD WATSON / WFAA

wfaa.com

Posted on March 8, 2010 at 9:08 PM

Updated Monday, Mar 8 at 9:20 PM

DALLAS - Severe budget pressures are forcing Dallas city leaders to consider pulling back from the city council's top priority for this year of hiring nearly 200 new police officers.

While the city planned to hire 191 more police officers this year, with sales taxes weak because of the economy, City Manager Mary Suhm wants to add only 120 officers.

“We've hired almost 2,000 officers since 2004," she said. "And giving the time to, as I say, chew that bite and digest it is important I think.”

Sharply lower crime rates over the past three years gave Suhm reason to think fewer officers than planned will not make neighborhoods less safe. Lower crime also gave the city council political cover to save about $1 million.

Council member Dave Neumann said he agreed with Suhm.

“Keep tightening your belt, I think you are on track for the police officers," he said.

Council member Vonciel Jones Hill echoed Neumann.

“I think it is a good idea, an excellent idea, for us to slow down take a look at where we are," she said.

But, council members also wanted to know why the police department hasn't helped the budget situation since officers are writing fewer tickets. Citations are $2.7 million below projections for the for the first three months of the budget year.

In November, WFAA reported that officers started writing fewer tickets after a woman got a ticket for not speaking English and the officers involved were admonished. Ticket quotas are illegal.

Still, some council members like Angela Hunt want answers.

"Are fewer people speeding?" she said. "Are fewer people having other traffic citations o, are we seeing our priorities move elsewhere?”

Police said fewer tickets are being written because officers h reassigned into neighborhoods and there are fewer motorcycle officers.

Meanwhile, the full council must decide whether to change the budget and hire fewer officers this year.  

E-mail: bwatson@wfaa.com

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