Warning

 

Close

Confirm Action

Are you sure you wish to do this?

Confirm Cancel
Member Login
Posted: 2/6/2006 2:18:05 PM EDT
Dallas Police Struggle To Recruit Officers



By Tanya Eiserer The Dallas Morning News (Texas)

In nearly 22 years on the force, Lt. Tammie Hughes has arrested bad guys, investigated problem officers and helped prosecute crooked cops. But the difficulty of those jobs pales to her current job: recruiting new police officers for the Dallas Police Department.
"I didn't realize that it was this hard," said Lt. Hughes, the recruiting unit's commander. "You can see an applicant come through the door, and they look like they have so much promise. Then all of the sudden, we find something in their background. We hired less than 10 percent that applied last year."

The Dallas Police Department isn't alone in struggling to fill openings. Nationwide, major metropolitan police departments, particularly those that hire large numbers of officers each year, face a drought of qualified recruits.

The reasons for the shortage vary, and include low pay, a tight job market, higher private sector pay and competition from the military for the same people.
"We're having a hell of a time," said Sgt. John Urquhart, spokesman for the King County sheriff's office in Seattle. "Police work doesn't have as much as allure as it did 10 years ago. ... Take your pick. Pick your reason."

Dallas' problem is aggravated by flawed hiring practices in the past that have left the department with a tainted reputation, a complicated lawsuit that affects how the city gives raises to firefighters and police officers, and higher pay and better benefits in the suburbs.

The city has nearly 3,000 officers but needs about 600 more to reach the city's goal of having three officers per 1,000 residents. The City Council has authorized about 50 new jobs each year in recent years.

But the revolving door means the department needs to hire about 250 officers per year to replace those who retire or leave and to increase the ranks.

The problem is that the department can't find enough qualified candidates to fill academy classes. During the last fiscal year, Dallas police filled only 65 to 70 percent of its academy slots.

"We're hiring the right people, but there's just not enough of them," said Dallas Police Deputy Chief Floyd Simpson, head of the department's recruiting and hiring division.

Higher pay in suburbs

Adrian Riojas said he barely gave Dallas a second look because the starting pay wasn't high enough and the job didn't offer tuition reimbursement.
The Corpus Christi native chose instead to apply to Grand Prairie and Frisco.

"The salary wasn't really worth that commute" to Dallas, said Mr. Riojas, 23, who lives in Arlington and attends the University of North Texas. "I didn't want to be any lower than $ 40,000."

Taking a look statewide, Dallas' starting pay for recruits -- nearly $ 39,000 -- fares well in compared with major Texas cities such as Houston, San Antonio, Fort Worth and Austin.

But compared with many area suburbs, Dallas' pay sits on the low end, even with a $ 1,000 hiring bonus for recruits who graduate from the academy.

Officer Joe Harn, a Garland police spokesman, said money is "very important in today's market. Here in the metroplex each police department is vying for the very same person."

Richardson Police Chief Larry Zacharias said his department needs 11 more officers.

"Like everybody else, we need people," he said. "But you can't lower your standards just to fill your vacancies."

Recruiters say younger people often aren't attracted by good retirement benefits such as those offered for Dallas police and fire personnel.

"I think it's a generational difference," said Lt. Hughes. "It's like a bell goes off about 35," she said.

Lucrative private sector

Austin police Lt. Raul Munguia, supervisor of recruiting, says he's struggling with an initial low pay of $ 32,000 year for recruits. "We've fallen behind the state average as far as cadet pay goes," Lt. Munguia said.

After they graduate from the police academy, they get a huge raise to $ 44,570.

Departments often require recruits to have at least some college credit. Plano and Arlington require four-year degrees. But young people can get more money in other professional careers.

Austin "can't compete with Dell or Samsung" in terms of pay
, said Lt. Munguia. He said two recent academy classes were only about 65 to 75 percent full.

Police departments are also struggling to navigate a changing society.

Most departments only hire between 5 percent and 10 percent of those who apply, and many get weeded out for prior drug use. Dallas won't take anybody who has tried -- even once -- harder drugs like cocaine or heroin, although it will take people who have tried marijuana.

"What they're exposed to now I never saw when I was in high school," Lt. Munguia said. "Times have changed."

Tarnished reputation

Dallas can't simply raise starting salaries because of legal complications from a 1979 public referendum that police and firefighters say requires that all sworn personnel get the same percentage raise at all levels in the departments whenever any raise is given.

The city disagrees, but has been cautious about how salaries are raised while the issue is settled in court.

The Dallas department has also suffered from its own reputation, notably the 2001 scandal in which fake drugs were planted on innocent people by paid police informants.

Dallas' top brass are also well aware of how flawed practices in the past led to the hiring of officers with questionable character and criminal histories.

Tracy Gaines, 34, said he recently chose the Rockwall Police Department because it's "not in the news a lot with scandal."

CHANGING STRATEGIES

Dallas officials say they're aggressively pursuing better recruiting strategies:

Last year, the department began waiving the college credit requirement for those who have four years of active military service. About 20 percent of those currently in the academy came in under the new rules.

This month, police recruiters are traveling to colleges and military bases in Mississippi, Oklahoma, Kansas, Alabama and Louisiana.

In December, Dallas placed 17 billboards across Texas and 10 billboards in Oklahoma City; Little Rock, Ark.; Jackson, Miss.; and Shreveport, La. The department may place billboards in Pittsburgh and Detroit. "We're going to start putting our salaries on them," Lt. Tammie Hughes said. "In Louisiana, a starting police officer is paid, like, $ 24,000. We look very good there."

INCENTIVES IN OTHER CITIES

The police officer hiring crunch has forced agencies to get creative:

The San Diego County Sheriff's Department offers hiring bonuses of up to $ 5,000 for experienced law officers. The department has also tripled its advertising budget to $ 250,000 in recent years. The result: A 100 percent increase in people taking application tests.

The King County sheriff's office, in the Seattle area, offers its 1,000 officers and civilians a one-time gift of 40 hours of vacation if they bring in someone who completes the academy and three months of post-academy training.

The Houston City Council is considering giving certified Texas police officers who defect to Houston a $ 7,000 bonus. The city also is looking at starting those officers somewhere higher on the pay scale, rather than making them begin at entry-level pay.

You get the police you pay for.
Link Posted: 2/6/2006 2:23:11 PM EDT
Dallas huh? Can I talk out of my ass like I don't know fuck all about firearms and where a cool S.W.A.T. patch?
Link Posted: 2/6/2006 2:25:32 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Dusty_C:
Dallas huh? Can I talk out of my ass like I don't know fuck all about firearms and where a cool S.W.A.T. patch?



Sure, we'll even put you on that thar television
Link Posted: 2/6/2006 2:25:44 PM EDT
gotta pay if you want quality
Link Posted: 2/6/2006 5:45:45 PM EDT
Hopefully any new hires learn that it is not appropriate to brawl with women on rollerskates.
Link Posted: 2/6/2006 5:53:48 PM EDT
Link Posted: 2/6/2006 5:55:25 PM EDT
Just hire illegals...problem solved.

"They're just enforcing the laws that ordinary americans don't want to enforce!"
Link Posted: 2/6/2006 6:23:14 PM EDT
I didn't pass the scantron craziness test...lol MMPI I believe.
I even got to sign a letter saying they wanted me.
That was in '98.
After seeing the what happened in the past few years I am glad they turned me away.
Link Posted: 2/6/2006 6:42:46 PM EDT
.
Link Posted: 2/6/2006 6:43:35 PM EDT
Hell I wouldnt want to work in Dallas either.
Link Posted: 2/6/2006 6:46:33 PM EDT
Less than 10% hired of what applies is about averarage Nationwide I believe.
Link Posted: 2/6/2006 6:48:22 PM EDT

Originally Posted By sixgunsblazing:
gotta pay if you want quality



Double the pay and they still will not fill a recruit class. Their problems are much deeper than throwing money at the problem.
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 6:27:54 AM EDT

Originally Posted By sum-rifle:
Less than 10% hired of what applies is about averarage Nationwide I believe.



We hire less than 1% who take the written test.
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 6:35:58 AM EDT
$39,000/year?

It must suck to be a cop!!!
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 6:38:45 AM EDT
Well, at least they can find some who will beat the shit out of a little hottie rollergirl....thank god for that!

I know, the little white bitch had it coming....
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 6:42:57 AM EDT

Originally Posted By RenegadeX:

Originally Posted By sixgunsblazing:
gotta pay if you want quality



Double the pay and they still will not fill a recruit class. Their problems are much deeper than throwing money at the problem.




+1 Who in their right mind would want to be a cop in Dallas when there are other dept with less problems
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 7:53:43 AM EDT

Originally Posted By motown_steve:
$39,000/year?

It must suck to be a cop!!!

Little Rock pays less than 30k. Some of our small rural depts start around 21k
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 9:39:56 AM EDT
That's not great pay. Our local guys make $74k-$90k/year.
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 9:49:28 AM EDT
They'd get more reruits if they didn't hassle cops so much every time they shot, tased, or roughed up a perp. Who would put up with that crap for that low a salary? The bureaucrats are taking the fun out of police work.
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 9:51:33 AM EDT
Houston PD comes to B'ham once or twice a year trying to recruit.
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 10:30:49 AM EDT

Originally Posted By mattja:
That's not great pay. Our local guys make $74k-$90k/year.



$39K here is like $65,000 in CA.

$60K here is like $90,000 in CA.

Cost of living makes up for the absolute money differences.
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 10:33:37 AM EDT
tag for later
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 10:35:24 AM EDT
I was in Dallas last year for an EP class.

It lasted 8 days.

There were two DPD officers killed in the LOD during that time.

No thanks.
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 10:38:45 AM EDT
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 10:44:08 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Ponyboy:

Originally Posted By mattja:
That's not great pay. Our local guys make $74k-$90k/year.



Yeah, and your houses cost one billion dollars. It's a lot different in Texas.



Yeah, a "fixer-upper" in San Jose CA that was 50 years old was going for $450,000.
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 10:50:04 AM EDT

Originally Posted By RenegadeX:

Originally Posted By sixgunsblazing:
gotta pay if you want quality



Double the pay and they still will not fill a recruit class. Their problems are much deeper than throwing money at the problem.




+1
When you use your police dept for social experimentation and a political football, no amount of money is going to make a difference.
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 10:54:45 AM EDT
Corruption, low pay, and obviously danger. If I was wanting to be a cop I'd certainly be applying to the safer and calmer suburbs that pay better.
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 11:01:35 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/7/2006 11:05:59 AM EDT by BillofRights]
The bigger question is: Why do they need 1 cop for every 333 residents. That sounds awfully high, like a police state. Is that the normal amount?
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 11:06:28 AM EDT
If we dropped you into a REAL police state, you'd soil your shorts on the spot.

Please keep in mind that not all the officers in a dept work at the same time. 1/5th the total is the general rule at any given moment.

As for the parity count, Dallas is a cesspit. Personally, I don't thing they have enough coverage.
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 11:08:25 AM EDT

Originally Posted By BillofRights:
The bigger question is: Why do they need 1 cop for every 333 residents. That sounds awfully high, like a police state. Is that the normal amount?

Considering that you also have an influx of people from other cities working in Dallas, that's kind of low depending on how many people commute everyday.
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 11:49:06 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/7/2006 11:59:01 AM EDT by danpass]

Originally Posted By Specop_007:
Hell I wouldnt want to work in Dallas either.



There was an article one time about the Detroit Police Department having major recruit and officer retention issues.

Academy graduates were perfectly willing to pay back all the costs associated with training them in order to work anywhere else in Michigan, preferably the 'burbs.

I believe that working in Detroit was the required first assignment.

edit: clarification
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 12:04:20 PM EDT
They've been having recruiting issues for years. They used to hit upstate NY every year, and every year the ad in the paper would say they needed 500 new officers. THis was back in the early 90s.
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 12:10:24 PM EDT
If you have ever been a protoctor during the initial written and physical selection stages for any LEO job, then you know right off the bat that AT LEAST 50% of the people you see shouldn't even been there.

It's striking really.

Law enforcement hiring practices need a drastic over-haul nationwide, including the options that an experienced officer has if he wants to change departments.

Very few departments have a lateral-transfer program. For those that do, most will only take in-state POST cert'd officers.

For the most part, let's say you have 10 years with LAPD and you're looking to move to a new PD...you start out at the bottom of the barrel all over again. It's a real pain in the ass. Ask me about it. I've done it three times.

Then on the other hand, all these agencies whine and complain about not getting enough bodies to fill academy slots, yet they will hire some 4'8"/95lb fading violet and expect them to be a competent, capable officer.

Better stop now before I get off on a rant.



Sheep
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 12:23:20 PM EDT
Is (were) the mayors of Dallas a liberal?
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 1:50:08 PM EDT

Originally Posted By KlubMarcus:
Is (were) the mayors of Dallas a liberal?



The mayor, the city council, the city manager, heck, all the way down to the sewer commisioner.

They also love tossing the race card at every issue.
Link Posted: 2/7/2006 1:52:05 PM EDT
I'd love to fly Air 1 for them.
Top Top