DALLAS - For the first time in years, there appears to be a long-term solution for hiring and keeping Dallas police officers.
In a rare show of unity, the Dallas City Council passed a budget on Wednesday that provides pay increases for new and veteran police officers.
It was the first budget to pass unanimously at city hall in half a decade. The mayor says it is because they heard citizens loud and clear that cutting crime needs to be a priority.
For years, finding people willing to go through the Dallas Police Academy and put their lives on the line has been a struggle.
“I've been with the department 25 years,” said Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata. “This has been a problem every year I've been here all 25 years.”
But violent crime reached a tipping point this summer and prompted DPS patrols to support the Dallas Police Department that is stretched thin.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said the council heard citizens loud and clear.
“I do think this will address the attrition issue and help us compete,” he said.
The budget is the first on Mayor Johnson's watch. It pumps more than $21 million into public safety. It will increase the salaries of both starting and veteran officers.
Mata is optimistic.
“Is this going to solve the problem? It absolutely will. Not overnight,” Mata said. “We've never hired 1,000 officers in less than 10 years, but I think it is a seven-year fix.”
Change is already underway one year after the city council increased pay for starting officers from $48,000 to $60,000.
A record 82 recruits filled the largest DPD academy class on Wednesday in the recorded history of the department. Among them was a former fourth-grade math and science teacher.
The class is so big that just finding the staff to train them will be a challenge.
“It will take some modifying of schedules and extending some classes because we will not sacrifice the training of the individuals here,” said Dallas Police Major Irene Alanis.
“This council did their job,” Mata said.
But the budget did not address everything that council members wanted.
Councilwoman Jennifer Gates admitted she was hoping the city would invest more in repairing aging streets. It’s something the mayor said could be addressed next year.