A deceptively quiet-looking Dallas City Hall. Photo by Kelsey Shoemaker.

Crime

Council Members Call Out a Lack of Goals and Focus in DPD’s Violent Crime Plan

A few quick things that stuck out as Chief U. Reneé Hall briefed the City Council this afternoon.

The Dallas City Council was briefed this afternoon on the police department’s plan to reduce violent crime. It was actually a meeting of the Council’s Public Safety committee, but the entire Council body showed up, as did a lot of people from the community—the meeting was moved to the larger Council chambers to accommodate the crowd. A few quick things that stuck out:

• Several Council members called out the plan’s outcome metrics, saying they are in some places vague and unhelpful, and in others, unambitious. This starts with the plan’s overarching 2020 goal to reduce violent crime city-wide by 5 percent year-over-year. Mayor Eric Johnson says we should be targeting a return to 2018 levels—that would mean city-wide reductions of 16 percent in aggravated assaults, 13 percent in robberies, and 17 percent in homicides.

He said this during opening remarks. And then Chief Hall took the microphone and, having heard the criticisms to the goals already, rolled out two more goals. The department now has a “stretch” goal to drop violent crime by 10 percent. It also included projections for returning to 2018 levels.

Council member Cara Mendelsohn, who represents Far North Dallas, took issue with what she says is a lack of focus. “All through this, we’re missing goals and outcome measurements and timelines,” she said. “That was extremely disappointing.” (Mendelsohn, who was more stern than anyone around the horseshoe, called the 5 percent goal “outrageously low.”)

Dallas PD’s various violent crime reduction goals for 2020.

• Staffing levels have found an easy route into these discussions. A study by KPMG last year pointed out that, despite its depleted staffing levels, Dallas PD can stand to do a much better job in how it uses its existing resources. Some of what we see in this plan is a reshuffling of those resources, such as adding an extra 10 to 15 robbery investigators. The department will also begin to implement, first in the South Central division, a more efficient patrol staffing model suggested by KPMG. Dallas PD has an extra 33 bodies on staff this year.

• DPD may end up spending $300,000 on a study of its culture. That did not please many people around the horseshoe. Council member David Blewett, of downtown and Uptown and East Dallas, pointed out that the department just got back the KPMG audit, which was supposed to spring the department to action. Mendelsohn and her Lake Highlands colleague Adam McGough told the chief that by now she should understand her culture. In other words: we’ve done the analysis. Time to act.

Next: Hall says the department will aggressively implement the plan. It will also take Council’s comments into consideration and make changes as needed. Assistant City Manager Jon Fortune says the city is envisioning monthly updates on progress.

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