DALLAS, TX – Testing standards for recruit officers’ driving tests are slipping, the president of the Dallas Police Association warned Thursday in a letter to city officials.
The letter, written by Ron Pinkston, singles out one recruit who he said continually failed the department’s vehicle operations course test. Pinkston said the department declined to fire the recruit, which would be standard in most cases, and let him take the test until he passed.
Pinkston also said in the letter that he believes the same “reduced” standards are used often for recruits at the pistol range. He wrote that the policies allow an officer who is a “marginal shooter” to get remedial training until he or she passes.
Police Chief David Brown said he is looking into the complaints.
Pinkston said in an interview that the constant re-testing creates liability issues for the city.
“There is a safety risk for the citizens and the fellow officers who have to ride with the person who is not proficient at driving an emergency vehicle,” he said.
Retired Sgt. Keith Wenzel, a former Dallas police trainer, said Thursday that very few people ever fail the driving test. A recruit slipping through is troublesome, he said.
“When the officer doesn’t respond to training, there has to be a minimum standard,” he said. “And for him to fail so many times, it can kind of give you an idea of how bad his driving is.”
Wenzel also said anybody getting the same test repeatedly will eventually pass. But that doesn’t mean they are capable, he said.
The department has made numerous recent changes to its training and policies — much of it in the name of officer safety and reducing liability. Not all of the changes — such as the foot chase policy — have been greeted warmly by Pinkston’s association, which is the largest in the city.
Still, Pinkston said in the letter that his goal in this case is to get the department to uphold its standards for all recruits to keep everyone safe.
“We can’t just push recruits through just to fill our numbers,” he said. “Our first job is to protect and serve, and that’s what we have to make sure we focus on is that we’re giving the proper customer service to the citizens in the best manner we can.”
The chief said in an email that the letter was “the first I’ve heard of their complaints.”
“I will review and resolve in the best interest of the department,” he said.
The letter is below: