Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia told the city council on Wednesday that over a quarter of his force is eligible to retire this year. As of today, 871 officers are eligible to retire, accounting for 27% of DPD’s active force.
Garcia told NBC 5 that he is working with union leaders to encourage retirement-eligible officers to stay on the force. These leaders described some of the reasons that officers choose to leave police work.
Terrance Hopkins, president of the Black Police Association (BPA) of Greater Dallas, explained that a lot of stress is involved in being a police officer.
“We battle the challenges that exist in law enforcement, you know? ‘Am I going to be chastised if I go out and actually enforce the law?'” he noted.
In addition to the challenges faced by officers, another union leader said DPD is facing competition from a wide-open job market.
“And our job market is so good right now, it’s actually taking some of our senior officers away,” Mike Mata, president of the Dallas Police Association, said.
“So, we really need to find ways to entice individuals that would otherwise retire immediately to stick around,” Garcia said.
At its peak, DPD employed almost 3,700 officers back in 2011. As of this year, that number is down to 3,079, NBC 5 reported.
As a result, Garcia said, police response times increased in 2022 from 2021. In a presentation to the city council, DPD reported Priority 1 response times have increased by almost a full minute. Lower-priority calls have also increased.
Garcia also explained to the city council that while the department has the capacity to hire and train up to 250 officers at a time, that pales in comparison to the possible 800 departures the department could face.
So many departures “would devastate this department,” Mata said.
The union leaders met with Garcia on Thursday to discuss ideas for improving officer retention. For example, Hopkins said that working in department areas other than patrol may be enticing to long-time officers who have been on the front lines for most of their careers.
Another strategy is for DPD to seek short-term commitments from its veteran officers to bridge the gap until new recruits are trained and ready to hit the streets.
“Not forever. We really need them to stick around three more years, at most five more years, just to give us time to build back the ranks of DPD,” Mata said.
According to Garcia, it takes about 18 months for an officer to be fully trained for patrol.