May 20, 2024 - News

Dallas keeps its police chief, for now

A man in a navy police uniform sitting at a desk

Chief Eddie Garcia ran the San Jose, California, police department before coming to Dallas in 2021. Photo: Cooper Neill for the Washington Post via Getty Images

Dallas is willing to spend a lot of money to keep its highly prized police chief here for as long as possible.

Why it matters: Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson has prioritized public safety, even during nationwide calls to "defund" the police in 2020.

  • Public safety spending accounts for 61% of the general fund portion of the city's budget.

The latest: Beginning in November, Chief Eddie Garcia will get a $10,000 retention bonus every six months.

  • Interim city manager Kim Bizor Tolbert announced last week that city leaders had reached a deal to keep Garcia in Dallas through at least May 2027. His salary will remain $306,440.

Driving the news: News reports circulated this month that Houston and Austin wanted Garcia for their police chief vacancies. Austin had already hired away Dallas' former city manager.

  • Tolbert quickly issued a statement saying Dallas wanted him to stay.
  • "He's the right quarterback to lead our Police Department. We certainly didn't want to lose him to free agency," Tolbert said in a statement about the retention bonus.

Between the lines: The police chief role in Dallas can be contentious and highly political — the chief has to appease the mayor, city council, police force and the public.

  • "This is my city. We're going to fight for it. I want communities to know that we're here, I'm here," Garcia said at a community event over the weekend.

Catch up quick: U. Reneé Hall had a promising start as the Dallas police chief in 2017 but left in 2020 after backlash over her handling of protests and concern from city leaders over "patently unacceptable" violent crime increases.

  • Garcia moved from California and focused on attacking crime at a neighborhood level. He has managed to strike a balance between keeping the community happy and earning the rank-and-file's support.

The big picture: Dallas' 2024 crime numbers are down, matching nationwide trends. But the city has seen reductions in violent crime for several years, even as other cities faced increases in the wake of COVID shutdowns.

Yes, but: Response times still aren't great. It's common to joke in Dallas that it's not worth dialing 911 because no one will show up.

  • Officers take around 10 minutes to respond to top-priority calls. Their goal is eight minutes.
  • They take around 75 minutes to respond to Priority 2 calls. Their goal is 12 minutes.
  • The lowest priority calls take almost four hours between dispatch and arrival.

What they're doing: The department has encouraged residents to use its online reporting system for lower-level crimes instead of calling 911.

  • Officials have also added a camera-sharing program that feeds into their crime center and are getting facial recognition technology to help with investigations.

The bottom line: Garcia's extended contract will keep the other cities at bay — for now — and give him more time to keep improving policing in Dallas.

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