A day after a man snuck onto a police parking lot and smashed 12 vehicles with a sledge hammer, city officials said they hope to start a project to install fencing, control access gates and bollards around the parking lots of the city’s seven patrol stations and police headquarters as soon as this spring.
Last fall, voters approved about $6.7 million in bond money for security enhancements to police facilities.
Sunday’s incident brought renewed calls from police association presidents for the city to make security at police facilities a top priority. Police associations have been calling for fencing to be installed around patrol station parking lots for years.
“To try to play this down as just an isolated incident is not true,” said Mike Walton, president of the Dallas Fraternal Order of Police. “The city of Dallas is fully responsible for any police officer who gets hurt or killed.”
Dallas city council members Philip Kingston and Dwaine Caraway agree security at police facilities should be move to the top burner.
“Get it fixed,” Caraway says. “It’s just as simple as that.”
Kingston can understand why cops are frustrated.
“I don’t why the very simple fix of fencing is not already in place,” he said.
Sunday’s incident occurred about 5:20 a.m. when police say Gregory Simpson snuck through an unlocked gate on the city marshal’s side of the property. The city marshals and officers at the police department’s central patrol station share a parking lot. Even if the gate hadn’t been unlocked, he could just as easily have come around the central patrol side and onto the parking lot. He could easily walk right up the back door of the station.
Police say Simpson took a sledgehammer to eight city marshal’s vehicles and four vehicles belonging to the police department. A cab driver who was nearby altered city detention personnel. Police officers took Simpson into custody after seeing him strike one of the vehicles, authorities said.
He is currently being held in the Dallas County jail on a felony criminal mischief charge. He is on suicide watch, according to the jail.
There has been some progress on security enhancements.
Work on police lobbies is well underway.
A $2 million security upgrade to the police headquarters lobby is about 60 percent complete. It is expected to be completed in May.
Upgrades to the lobbies of central, southwest, northwest and northeast have been completed. Upgrades to south central and north central patrol are almost done. Work on southeast patrol should start this month. Those enhancements include installing ballistic resistant paneling and glass.
“You plugged one little whole and you still have this huge, gaping hole,” Walton says.
Two and half years ago, a man attacked police headquarters with an armored van. That man, who was killed in a standoff with police, left bombs in an unsecured parking lot at police headquarters.
In recent years, there have been other incidents at the city’s patrol stations.
Last February, someone opened fire on south central patrol with an assault rifle. A few months later, a man showed up to the city’s southwest patrol station with two guns and lots of ammunition.
Since the headquarters attack, police officers have been posted around the clock at headquarters and the city's seven patrol stations. Police association officials estimate that cost now well exceeds $10 million.
“It wastes money that we should be paying to go perform other safety functions,” Kingston said.
Once fencing is installed, Walton believes the department will be able to stop having officers posted outside and be able to be put them back into the neighborhoods responding to calls for help from citizens.
Walton says when city officials wanted to make something a priority, they can move heaven and earth to get it done. Consider how quickly city officials moved to remove statue of Robert E. Lee from Lee Park.
“The city of Dallas will find money for things that they think is important,” he said.
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