DALLAS — Calls for service are up, but the number of police officers to respond to those calls are down.
"It’s a national staffing crisis in law enforcement. There is no question about it,” said Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia.
Dallas police are answering more calls than ever before, but Garcia says his department needs at least 600 patrol officers to be at full staff.
“We have to do something different. Every police chief in this country needs to think differently as we struggle with our staffing issues," he said.
Like most police departments, DPD is struggling to recruit and retain officers.
Sheldon Smith is the head of the National Black Police Officer’s Association in Dallas.
“Right now, our officers are very tired. They go from call to call, they go to more violent calls and when they get to those calls, they have people that don’t’ like them,” said Smith.
A national survey released by the Police Executive Research Forum shows that from 2020 to 2021 there was a 45% increase in officer retirements nationwide.
“Let’s be frank, here in the last few years, the national narrative has not been positive. Honorable men and women have not felt supported, they felt vilified. And that has been a huge disconnect with what our communities truly feel,” said Smith.
Currently, 27% of the Dallas police force is eligible for retirement, so the city is working on retaining them. DPD is offering officers with 28 years or more experience an extra $40,000 to stay an extra two years.
“We need those veterans’ officers that have dealt with this before. Violent crime in Dallas is not new, it’s happened before. Those older officers can lead the younger officers and teach them how do we defense this. What do we do,” said Smith.
At one point in the early 2000’s, Dallas had close to 3,800 officers on the force. Now, it’s dropped below 3,200.
DPD hopes to get back to those higher staffing levels, otherwise, Garcia and Smith said, it will be harder to keep the crime rate down without more officers.