After recent events, notably the shooting in Uvalde, concern is growing about whether police response times are good enough to protect the public. Although Dallas PD has not released an average police response time for 2022, NBC reports that the average time in 2021 was around 8 minutes and 12 seconds. Unfortunately, the response time had increased by one minute for the highest priority crimes, Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia told the city council last week.
“It is disheartening for the community,” Dallas PD Police Chief Garcia stated. In his opinion, the most significant barrier to better response times is repeat offenders, the people who commit crimes again and again after being released from prison. For this to change, Garcia asked the city to be more accountable for bonds. “It can be no more lack of trust than for communities to put themselves out there to assist only to see there is no accountability.”
The Dallas PD chief told the city’s public safety committee several possible strategies for improving response times. The first proposal was to delegate non-emergency calls to a “civilian unit;” another was to have police reports submitted online, the Dallas Morning News writes.
Yet another strategy the Dallas PD could implement by the end of the year is diverting some calls to other city departments. For example, calls about parking violations and street blockages could be sent to the city’s transportation department.
On average, five Dallas PD officers are needed to respond to the highest-priority calls. Dallas police 911 administrator Robert Uribe reports an uptick in high-priority calls, so staffing is stretched thin. “Everything is on the rise,” Uribe said, “the call volumes, the response times. This is leading to unacceptable response times overall.”
To allow more trained officers to respond to the most demanding calls, Uribe wants the city to consider implementing a “civilian unit.” These people would cover lesser-priority issues, such as noise complaints or panhandling. He claims that by diverting calls differently, the department could save another 99 active officers for staying on patrol.
However, the public safety committee chairman, Dallas City Councilman Adam McGough, was reluctant to get on board with the idea of a civilian unit. McGough said, “I wish there was another way, but when we have a shortage of staffing, this is what we’re dealing with.”
McGough added that in his experience, many calls are about situations that seem minor but can turn sour and involve violence. Additionally, other factors may impact certain cases, and civilians may not know how to deal with those.
Overall, the city council said it was willing to consider some of the proposals, Dallas Morning News wrote. Meanwhile, the newspaper reported that Dallas PD plans to implement the strategies. Outreach efforts will educate the public, and staff training will take place over the next few months.