Dallas officers march for pension fund fix

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Police, firefighters and their families marched through Downtown Dallas Wednesday morning to demand changes.

About a 1,000 mostly retired officers and firefighters said they want a resolution to the ongoing crisis involving the Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund. They were also trying to draw attention to the city’s steadily shrinking police force.

Organizers of the march said close to 700 police officers have either quit or retired just in the last seven months. There are currently only 3,077 on the force, which is the smallest force the city has seen in 10 years.

Those taking part in the march set out 697 old pairs of boots to represent how many officers have left the Dallas Police Department during the pension fight.

“Regardless of this pension being bad or indifferent, however it’s settled, you have about 200 to 250 officers who are going to have to retire. So that’s going to push us up to about 1,000 officers before the summer is over,” said Michael Mata, the third vice president for the Dallas Police Association.

There is a bill pending in the Texas Legislature aimed at saving the pension system.  But it is being opposed by Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.

Rawlings said the legislation is deeply flawed because it amounts to a huge taxpayer bailout for that pension system. He said it would have a negative impact on the city for Dallas for many years to come.

“After five police officers were murdered last summer at the hands of a downtown sniper, Mayor Rawlings looked us in the eyes and promised he had our backs. Now just 9 months later, the mayor has turned his back on the mend and women who risked their lives to protect Dallas and its citizens,” Mata said.

The mayor's office released this statement in response to the march: "Every action I have taken regarding the fund in my six years as mayor has been part of an effort to save it. We also believe the fair solution to this pension crisis should not be in the form of a taxpayer bailout and must include proper governance."

The mayor also said he remains hopeful his proposed changes to chairman Dan Flynn's pension bill will be accepted. Rep. Flynn's chief of staff told me his office is trying to incorporate some of the mayor's requests.