State of Public Safety is “very strong” amid population growth

By Catie George, Manager, Communications and Storytelling. 

The Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC) hosted its third annual State of Public Safety, presented by Texas Instruments and Ashford, on Tuesday, March 26, at the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

Chief Greg Stevens gives his keynote.
Chief Greg Stevens gives his keynote.

“I believe that the state of public safety in Texas is still very strong. However, I don’t think we want to just rest on that,” said Chief Greg Stevens, the new Executive Director of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. “[Senate Bill 1445, or the Sunset Bill] empowered TCOLE with raised expectations and increased regulatory authority. But most significantly, from my perspective, it provided a very clear mission for TCOLE and a clear direction. I thought that’s something I want to be involved in because I see some great opportunity and a great path forward for not just Texas law enforcement but for Texas public safety for Texans, the people that live and work here, the many people that are moving here, and the people that visit our great state.”

Transparency is key as Dallas faces recent population growth, which has the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) Region on track to becoming the third-largest city in America by 2030.

“Not only are we still growing as a population of residents and houses, but our visitor population is growing. So, trying to maneuver officers into the areas that are needed and making sure that not only our citizens but also our visitors are taken care of is a challenge that comes with that,” said Assistant Chief of the Frisco Police Department Billy Clay. “When it comes down to it, we’re all in this together as a region.”

Representatives from the Dallas, Frisco, and Plano Police Departments and the Dallas FBI speak about public safety.
Representatives from the Dallas, Frisco, and Plano Police Departments and the Dallas FBI speak about public safety.

Authorities in the region are working together to address the challenges they face collaboratively, making the DFW area truly unique in its approach to public safety and policing.

“We exchange information about what’s going on in our cities and what we’re seeing in crime, and it just makes us all better,” said Plano Police Chief Ed Drain. “We can all learn from each other. We rely on Dallas for a lot of resources and help, so we’re really fortunate in that regard to be working in this area. You don’t have a lot of competition.”

The lack of competition makes Dallas stand out on a national scale, as well.

“I’ve been all over the country and stationed in multiple locations,” said FBI Dallas Division’s Special Agent in Charge B. Chad Yarbrough. “I will tell you that the law enforcement in North Texas, at the federal, state, and local levels, is by far the best I’ve ever seen. The leadership here is something every citizen should be proud of.”

The discussion then transitioned to focus on the 77,000 individuals released from incarceration each year and their relationship to the workforce. Re-entry policies and support are currently lacking, to the disappointment of experts and those affected.

“Once they come out, they need to have the tools [to succeed], and they’re not given much when they come out,” said Texas Rep. Rhetta Bowers (D-Dallas).

One tool needed is simply the opportunity to succeed.

“I think the more [employers] understand the benefits of hiring someone with a background, what protections can be put in place, and maybe looking at additional legislative policies that we can put in place or protections for employers, that’s the road we need to go down,” said Christina Crain, Founder, President, and CEO of Unlocking Doors, a nonprofit that works to reduce crime through collaboration.

The second panel discussing re-entry policies.
The second panel discussing re-entry policies.

Employers like JPMorgan Chase & Co. are working to make substantial changes to their hiring practices for people with criminal backgrounds.

“Over the last four years, over 10% of our hires have been justice-impact hires… These are career pathways with jobs and benefits, with opportunities to advance and get promoted. We’ve found that they’re great employees, they’re grateful, and they can have a lot of opportunities in different positions,” said Vice President of Government Relations at JPMorgan David Emerick. “I’ve always said that if JPMorgan Chase could hire somebody with a criminal background, just about anybody can.”

Thank you to our presenting sponsors, Texas Instruments and Ashford. Thank you to our media partner KRLD. Thank you to our silver sponsors, Oncor and Thompson Reuters.

To learn more about the work the DRC is doing in Public Safety, visit our website.