City Supports Incentives for Police Referrals

Dallas Police officers | Image by Dallas Police Department/Facebook

A pilot program proposed by the Dallas Police Department would offer financial incentives to certain City employees who refer officer candidates — an initiative the Public Safety Committee supports — as the agency tries to inch closer to its hiring goals.

“Option A would provide only $3,000 for each,” Chair Cara Mendelsohn (District 12) said during a committee meeting on Tuesday.

“I don’t think that’s enough money. [With] Option B, you’re proposing $5,000. I’m telling you, I’m proposing $6,000. It’s not all about referral. It’s about referral and retention. The hope would be that folks dressed in blue are going to actively seek who they want to serve alongside them, who are going to literally have their back in their worst moments.”

Mendelsohn is one of the committee’s five Dallas City Council members. The others are Tennell Atkins (District 8), Kathy Stewart (District 10), Gay Donnell Willis (District 13), and Jesse Moreno (District 2). They said they support Option B, which would pay $1,000 to the referring sworn employee after the officer starts work, $1,000 to the same employee when the officer graduates from the police academy, and $3,000 to that employee on the officer’s fifth anniversary with the City.

On Option A, the first two elements of referral payments are the same, but any Dallas employee is eligible to receive them. However, the final $1,000 would be paid to the employee after the officer successfully completes the probationary period. Both options are delivered on assumptions of 167 hires at different levels of referral rates over three to five years.

“I think you’re making a very big assumption that we would have 167 hires from the referral program,” Mendelsohn said. “We haven’t had 167 hires this year, right? So, if you wanted to limit the number and say we’re going to do this for the first 100 referrals for the pilot … $6,000 a head is actually a very low cost for us to recruit them. And it’s very qualified people. I would love to see how this pilot works.”

Assistant City Manager Jon Fortune said increasing the maximum referral payout from $5,000 to $6,000 is not an issue.

“We want to hire as many officers as we can,” he said. “That’s our goal. There is a reason for this being a pilot program. They’re still finalizing general orders for this proposal.”

According to data provided by DPD, between October 1, 2023, and March 31, 2024, Civil Service referred 502 applicants. Of those, 83 entered the police academy. In March, 106 applicants were referred, and 50 are projected to enter the academy in May.

Mendelsohn said that 250 hires have been allotted for the year. In February, The Dallas Express reported that DPD employs about 3,000 patrol officers despite a City analysis that recommends 4,000 officers are needed. Moreover, with a DPD budget of $654 million this fiscal year, city council members have chosen to spend far less taxpayer money on its law enforcement agency than any other high-crime cities, such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

Officer shortages have led to delayed police response times and a hampered ability to fight crime in Dallas, with certain categories — such as motor vehicle theft — surging lately, as covered in The Dallas Express.

In March, DPD recruiters participated in nearly two dozen recruiting events, some of which were even out of state.

“Dallas Police recruiters participated in four (4) out-of-state hiring events in Oklahoma, California, Tennessee, and Michigan,” a recruiting update memorandum reads. “Recruiters also participated in the American Criminal Justice Association National Conference in Grapevine, the Dallas Police Department’s Women’s Symposium, and the Dallas City Manager’s Office ’City Hall at Fair Park: Engage. Explore. Experience’ event.”

As part of that effort, recruiters hosted eight presentations at universities and colleges across Texas, including Dallas Baptist University and Texas Woman’s University.

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