Dallas city leaders consider police and fire pay

Dallas Police Chief David Brown said he's worried about the mental health of some of his officers following the deadly ambush in July that killed five officers.

During a council budget hearing Tuesday morning, Brown said the city needs to develop a long-term plan to help officers deal with post-traumatic stress. He wants a counseling program that will address the emotional needs of his officers -- and their families -- for up to five years.

The police chief is making the request at a crucial time. Council is starting to put together a budget for next fiscal year, and the Dallas Police Department is struggling to retain and hire new officers.

Chief Brown is also asking council to fund new protective gear for at least 100 officers. The standard-issued bullet-proof vests are not strong enough. He said the downtown shooting was evidence of that.

“All of our officers had their ballistics vest on, and that did not defeat the kind of weapon this suspect had,” he said. “It's a very popular weapon, a very common weapon for active shooters."

Chief Brown is facing an uphill battle. Well before the deadly ambush created a whole new set of police safety concerns, many DPD officers were fleeing to neighboring departments for better pay. And now brown is asking the city to hire 549 new police officers.

Overtime pay for Dallas police is projected to soar to $32 million by Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.

Some city council members say the focus of the budget should be on new recruits to boost the force and decrease overtime pay. Police and firefighters also want a 5 percent pay raise each year over the next three years.

“If you split the officers up and only half the officers are getting money and a third of the officers aren’t getting any money, you are going to lose officers. And I’m going to tell you there are officers that are waiting to make decisions based on this budget,” said Sheldon Smith with the Black Police Association of Greater Dallas.

Dallas Police Association Union President Ron Pinkston was at the council briefing Tuesday morning, wall to wall with DPD officers. He believes the solution to the problem of retention is better pay.

"We're short 200 officers this year, and we can't even fill those numbers,” Pinkston said. “So to try and reach 540, it's not going to happen. That's the honest truth, and we have to fix the problem that's not going to make that happen, and that's pay.”

Both police and fire associations say they are disappointed in the city manager’s proposal last week for pay raises.