‘Shell game’ downtown: Police cuts designed to reduce street staffing?

If the police department is "asked" to trim 190 of its 739 civilian employees (26 percent), shouldn’t we assume that it won’t be long before cops are pulled off the street to become desk jockeys? That’s the question asked, and then answered in part by former police chief Ben Click, in a DMN story about the city’s budget cutbacks.

Even as Mayor Tom Leppert and city council members talk about how they absolutely, positively refuse to cut police strength on the streets, the department is being "back doored" by the city staff — presumably with at least some of the council’s approval — into doing exactly that.

What’s going on and what it all means after the jump…

Overall, next year’s preliminary city budget requires laying off 785 of about 6,000 civilian employees (13 percent); the police cuts among civilian employees are roughly twice the city percentage. Why? It appears as if some enterprising political types downtown decided that if they don’t officially reduce the number of officers, just let a bunch of them shift from street to desk, they can keep telling us they’re staying strong on crime while quietly reducing the number of beat officers.

I’m not quarreling with the need to trim employees downtown, civilian or police; I’m questioning the honesty factor of doing it this way. If the budget cutbacks require reduction of the number of officers on the streets, why not just say so? Answer: Because too many people downtown see themselves as hot-shot politicians first and our elected representatives second. And saying you stayed "tough on crime" even during a budget crisis will probably sound pretty good on the next upwardly mobile campaign trail.

I always found Click to be an honest guy when he was here, and his comments in the DMN story support the idea this is a tried-and-true bait-and-switch strategy here in Dallas; he would know, because he presided over the police department during the last budget crisis downtown. Click calls it a "shell game", and he’s saying the same thing now that he told us here at the Advocate when we interviewed him during the 1990s (unfortunately, that interview hasn’t made our online electronic archive yet).


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