Dallas PD set to make changes to off-duty patrol program

Changes could be coming to Dallas PD’s Expanded Neighborhood Patrol.

The Dallas Police Department's program lets neighborhoods hire off-duty officers to help fight crime.

A city audit of the so-called ENP last year uncovered problems with it. The department says it is looking at how the program is managed.

The concern is about overworked officers. According to city records, off-duty officers get paid up to $50 an hour to patrol neighborhoods and businesses under ENP. But there is concern about the lack of checks and balances for officers working more than 16 hours a day.

With the Dallas police force short hundreds of officers, effectively patrolling every part of town 24/7 is a challenge.

“The neighborhoods don’t want to wait an hour or an hour and a half for that police response,” said Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata. “So they pay an off-duty officer to patrol their neighborhoods.”

That’s why more neighborhoods are taking advantage of hiring off-duty officers.

“Which has, we believe, helped with monitoring and being the first on the scene,” said Noelle Leveaux with Uptown Dallas Inc.

But a recent city audit shows in a two-year period that officers made more than 276,000 off-duty employment requests.

The audit cited a lack of oversight, saying DPD supervisors can’t confirm if an officer worked more than 16 hours a day.

The department oversees the Expanded Neighborhood Patrol that accounts for some of that off-duty work. It isn't saying what changes will be proposed, but sources say the department is considering hiring an outside company to run the program. It could add to the costs neighborhood groups pay.

“The last thing we need is an outside company, helloing us to control our house. If our command staff can’t do it, then we have the wrong command staff,” Mata said. “All we need to do is get new computer programs. The one we have is 20 years old. It doesn’t work.”

In March, police say an off-duty officer was working an ENP job patrolling a Lake Highlands neighborhood and saw a gunman shoot another man. They say that officer shot and captured the suspected gunman.

Leveaux believes there's a direct connection to a reduction in crime with the program.

“I think the biggest difference is in the nighttime activity,” Leveaux said. “Adding that police car sitting in a certain area cuts down on foot traffic, especially in dark places and parking lots. Behavior changes.”

As for overworked officers, Leveaux says they work closely with a DPD liaison.

“It’s not just a schedule. He knows who has been working and who isn’t,” she said. “Sometimes he works as well so he can really monitor that. So that helps us make sure our officers are not overworked.”

The proposal will be at the August 12 council meeting.