- Associated Press - Monday, July 21, 2014

DALLAS (AP) - The Dallas Police Department said it will use civilian employees to free up officers at the county jail.

Department commanders recently transferred 10 employees to the jail to watch arrested suspects while the county processes them. The move is aimed at sending officers back out to patrol the streets more quickly instead of forcing them to wait at the jail.

Wait times for processing arrested people can be long because they must be seen by a nurse before they’re admitted into the jail, the Dallas Morning News reported (http://bit.ly/1p727OC ).

That policy, along with other booking guidelines, was established because of a 2007 settlement with the Justice Department over inmate medical care and treatment, according to Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price.

Richard Todd, the president of the Dallas Fraternal Order of Police, said booking procedures have left officers spending many hours waiting for suspects to be admitted.

“The public should be outraged,” Todd said. “If you add up over 20 years all the hours that have been spent with an officer sitting on a prisoner when those officers could have been out on the street, how many crimes could have been prevented just by visible presence on the street?”

But, Todd said, the department’s solution won’t work, because civilian guards’ safety is at risk. The switch to civilian employees at the county jail also leaves a hole for jobs that still need to be done at the department, which Todd said is likely to fall on officers. He said the shift could also push the department further away from the police chief’s goal of saving money by hiring fewer officers and getting others out from behind desks.

Deputy Chief Malik Aziz said the civilian employees train every week for working at the jail, adding the sheriff deputies will be nearby if needed.

The responsibilities of the civilian employees included answering phones or checking out radios and cars at the police stations, Assistant Chief Michael Genovesi said. He said he believes getting officers out of the jail more quickly will outweigh any possible time loss for officers at the station who will now do those tasks.

“Everything is about resource allocation,” he said.

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Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com

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