Veteran Dallas police officer says is department understaffed

A veteran Dallas police officer says the rank and file is stretched so thin, he's concerned for colleagues and the safety of Dallas citizens.  

To make the point, Sr. Cpl. Nick Novello posted video on Facebook giving an example of how many 911 calls were being held up because of the shortage of officers. He claims the actual response times are much higher than those reported by the department.

"There was a motorcycle down, downtown, and they were pleading for someone to clear up but there was no one available. No one,” Novello said.

It is rare to see a police officer in his patrol car documenting his frustration with staffing shortages. But that's what Novello did on Saturday after his shift, posting the video to Facebook. After 35 years on the force, Novello plans to retire from the department next month.

"No elements available. Now let's look at calls they are holding right now. Oh my! Look at those priority two’s,” Novello said in the video. Those holding calls are put in a queue until the next available officer can respond.

After a slight decline in response times last year toward seven minutes for priority calls, data for the first half of this year shows it is now more than eight minutes.

"I guarantee you the citizen who called 911, he knows, or she knows, how long it took that officer to show up at their house!  And it wasn't seven minutes,” said Mike Mata, Dallas Police Association president.

Mata agrees with Novello that staffing shortages are having a real impact. Both also question how the city is computing response time. When calls are holding in the queue, the city does not count that in the overall response time.

"The question is, how long did it sit in that cue? Prior to it being dispatched? That's the real response time that we are talking about here,” Mata said.

Dallas police defended the response times as accurate, and also said in a statement, “It is the patrol supervisor's responsibility to review the status of officers assigned to other calls in that division and determine whether an officer can be freed up to take the priority call that is holding.”

Mata said the Dallas city manager's budget looking to hire 250 officers doesn't come close to matching the retirement rate.

"We're easily going to hit 500 this fiscal year add that to the 350-plus that we lost last year, so you're looking on the verge of 900 officers over the last 20-22 months,” Mata said.

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