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Dallas police chief backs away from department overhaul

🕐 3 min read

DALLAS (AP) — Dallas’ police chief, faced with a surge in killings and other violent crime, is quickly backing away from sweeping changes for one of the largest departments in the country due to broad criticism from rank-and-file officers.

Chief David Brown told a city council committee on Monday that hundreds of Dallas officers would be reassigned to target high-crime neighborhoods and bulk up staffing on a 4 p.m. to midnight shift — a time when police commanders say a majority of violent crime occurs. Others would be placed on task forces concentrating on areas like serving domestic violence warrants, Brown said, and more officers, including top commanders, would be assigned to foot patrols.

But officers complained the changes would disrupt their personal lives and at least one police union called on Brown to resign. Three of the other leading police unions also complained about the sweeping changes.

Brown and City Manager A.C. Gonzalez released a joint statement Tuesday saying that Brown “has heard his officers’ concerns.” The plan presented Monday to the council panel “was not sustainable over a long period of time and it would put a tremendous strain on our police force,” Brown acknowledged.

Instead, Brown is calling for a “study on staffing models, internal communications, response times and best practices,” and promised it will include feedback from many on a force that has more than 3,500 officers.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has offered state resources to the department, which is contending with a rise in killings that includes at least 17 so far this month; there were five killings last March. The number of aggravated assaults and robberies also are up.

Dallas police officials are responding to the same crime trends in other U.S. cities. Houston’s killings rose from 241 in 2014 to 303 last year, and rates of violent crime are up in Chicago and Los Angeles.

The rising numbers reverse a 10-year trend. For the 10-year period ending in 2014, Dallas police reported a 49 percent drop in murders. Brown told the council committee there are a variety of reasons for the resurgence in crime, including a steady departure of officers from the force — 50 have left this year alone, The Dallas Morning News reported — and a mild winter.

Brown and Gonzalez did not specify which state resources would be provided and a spokesman for the governor referred questions to the Texas Department of Public Safety. A spokesman for DPS was not immediately available for comment. The chief and the city manager declined to comment beyond their statement.

The four leading city police unions had balked at Brown’s efforts, with the Black Police Association of Greater Dallas calling on Brown to resign.

“The current atmosphere within the Dallas Police Department is one of vengeance, distrust, retaliation and failure to employ the most prudent use of manpower,” association President Thomas Glover Sr. wrote to the council. “We believe that as a professional organization of police officers, that this has severely crippled the ability to best fight crime.”

Dallas officials are calling on Brown for long-term solutions rather than a Band-Aid approach.

“In the last six to eight months, I’m only hearing excuses,” council member Adam McGough told Brown, according to the newspaper. “I’m only hearing the issues and the problems we’re facing.”

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