The Dallas Police Department says a recent bump in starting pay is beginning to pay off.
The bump is good news for a department that's been struggling with a shortage of officers. It’s the first recruiting class to sign up since the raise went into effect last month.
The lieutenant over recruiting says about 200 applicants signed up, which is a big jump from what he says is a typical applicant pool of about 150 people.
For years, the Dallas Police Department has watched its officers leave to go to higher paying departments. Now that an $18,000 starting pay raise began this year, DPD is seeing officers from other departments come to Dallas.
Juan Vitar has been an officer in a North Texas city for five years. He said he's looking to move to Dallas to better provide for his wife and two children.
“At first, I couldn't believe it until I saw it in effect. I realized that it's time for me to move on for better pay,” he said. “Everything is going up. Groceries up. We need more income to support the family.”
Some recruits, like Franklen Ayala, are from as far away as Puerto Rico.
“When I start studying criminal justice, I knew in the future I wanted to become a police officer,” he said.
Most applicants are from Texas. But surprisingly, no one in the group attended Dallas ISD. The department said a new program is in the works to change that.
“Looking at a new program. Pathway to Dallas Program will go into Dallas high schools their Junior or Senior year to start mentoring the students then going into classrooms teaching classes,” said Dallas Police Lt. John Madison.
Once they graduate, they can get a part-time civilian job with DPD while going to college paid for with a scholarship. DPD is working to get sponsors for the scholarships and hopes to have the program up and running this summer.
“True recruitment is long term. Hit them early in high school and work them through college,” Madison said. “That's important because we get better officers. We have to have that goal that we are building the department 4 years from now.”
DPD's goal this year is to hire 255 officers. And out of a pool of 200, they only plan for about 30 to make through the testing and screening process all the way to the academy.
Madison says there is still time to get tested during the three-day event. He said they will not be turning anyone away who comes to police headquarters on Friday or Saturday. The testing begins again Friday at 7 a.m.