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Are Dallas Cops Really Disgruntled?

The Dallas Police Association put out a release this morning about a morale survey that was conducted among its membership. As the DMN has pointed out, the results do not look good. Eighty percent of respondents said morale in the department was “low” or “the lowest its ever been.” No question that Chief David Brown has a situation on his hands that needs addressing. But a few words about the limitations of this survey before anyone thinks the sky is falling:

In 2003, when Terrell Bolton was chief (remember him?), we conducted our own morale survey of cops. There are four police unions. We were only able to survey the DPA, the same organization being surveyed this time around. There were about 3,000 Dallas cops then. We mailed — yes, mailed — 2,403 surveys and received 1,189 responses. Ask me how much fun I had manually entering those results into a spreadsheet.

Today, there are about 3,500 cops, 1,279 of which are DPA members who answered the survey. Clearly our survey destroyed this survey, in terms of response rate. But here’s the bigger point: today’s survey represents the views of 37 percent of the total department. More than half of that group of 37 percent has been on the force longer than 10 years (look at more data here). I think it’s fair to say that disgruntled people are more likely to take morale surveys than satisfied people. Which means it’s also fair to say that these results skew toward the views of the “black button club.”