Police Chief Eddie Garcia continues to tour Dallas, visiting neighborhoods to discuss crime response and community collaboration.
On Tuesday, Garcia met with residents of the Buckner Terrace community in East Dallas in the wake of what was on their minds last week – the Uvalde school shooting.
“We are with you; we are partners in this. So what we really need to do is work collectively and together,” Garcia said in an opening statement to those in attendance.
Garcia met with community members from the Buckner Terrace neighborhood at Edna Rowe Elementary School. Understandably, much of Tuesday’s discussion focused on safety in schools and other public spaces.
Ernestine Rhynes, a 19-year-old resident and retired educator, said her concern for the children she still cares for brought her to the meeting.
“I still do tutoring,” Rhynes said. “So I can just see those little faces. They are babies. They are 10, 11 years old. They are babies.
Garcia, who has SWAT experience himself, said steps were being taken to address those legitimate concerns.
“Over the summer you’re going to start seeing patterns of trainers between us, the school districts, Dallas ISD, and other entities,” he said.
He said the training session will not only focus on schools but other spaces such as shopping malls, cinemas and places of worship.
Even with lofty goals and falling crime rates in the city, Garcia admitted that department staffing is still a concern.
“The city has allowed us to hire 250 officers this year, 250 next year, which seems like a lot. But my attrition is 200 a year, or so,” Garcia told those in attendance.
In September, the city approved a $4.35 million budget that included funds to hire more officers and restore police overtime pay. Still, Garcia says building the department is a process.
“I can’t snap my fingers and have 500 officers today because we can’t assimilate them that quickly,” Garcia said. “And so, we have to grow at a rate that we can absorb, and we are growing.”