Last night, the city of Dallas held a reception and dinner at the Trinity River Audubon Center where the six candidates to replace outgoing Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle underwent what City Manager Mary Suhm referred to as "speed dating." Three of the would-be chiefs come from outside the DPD, so we hung around late into the night's festivities with a digital recorder in hand to ask the three out-of-towners their thoughts on Dallas, as well as three big questions about DPD.
In short, we wondered: What are some good things you see in place in the department? And, some of the bad things? And, um, what do you make of the department's crime stats and the controversy over the DPD and its interpretation of Uniform Crime Report guidelines.
Later today we'll bring you a wrap-up from the whole event -- as well as what Suhm, who has the final word on the new hire, has to say after her individual sit-downs with all six men today. But, for now, after the jump read what the chiefs from Austin, San Jose and Louisville have to say about the good, the bad and the crime stats as they vie for the top spot in Dallas. Suhm, incidentally, told us last night she doesn't have a definitive deadline for appointing a new chief.
"Well, I think the department is in great shape. Chief Kunkle has done a great job of putting a great team in place. And one of the things that I love is the thought of working with a bunch of young officers. Some people see that as a weakness, but I see that as an opportunity to really mold young minds -- young police minds -- and hopefully build some professionals who will make this a career and who will behave and conduct their business in a manner that will make us proud of them."
"Right now, Dallas is very much like the rest of the country: We're all facing economic hard times. Obviously there's some lean budget years potentially coming up for the city, but I think that the people of the city have been very well-served by the city manager and the political leadership in that they've been building the department for the last five or six years. And, because of that growth, we are really well-positioned to deal with the down years right now. So, even though I think the budget is a challenge ... we'll be able to weather the storm."
"Quite frankly, the UCR numbers are designed to help police departments and communities compare themselves to other cities. I feel personally that what is a value to people and what they really what to know is not how we stack up against somebody else, but how do we stack up against ourselves from any given year. So I think that what's important is that once you pick a methodology -- whatever that may be -- that you stick with that methodology. Because what people want to know in Austin or Dallas, no matter where you're at, is: 'Am I safer this year than I was last year?' And if we're not safer, what are the challenges and what do we need to do to overcome those challenges.
"To me, that's the most important issue, and from what I can see, it seems [DPD] have now picked their methodology and are being consistent, and that's the key."
The Austinite complemented the Audubon Center and all the green space that he'd seen in Dallas, saying that too many people have a misperception of the city as a "concrete jungle." So there's that.
"In terms of what I like in Dallas PD, I like to see that they've been able to drop the crime rate. And that's been done, I think, through the leadership of Chief Kunkle and the staff as well. But I like the idea of having a Real-Time Crime Center -- in other words, a fusion center -- because if you can keep track of your crime trends, you can move you're cops to where the trends are going."
"It's not that there's anything that's glaring bad. I think you have to come in and say, 'Look, there's obviously some things that they're doing very, very well.' But, I bring experiences from the outside where I can come in and give things a fresh look -- a fresh set of eyes to scan the environment. [He paused, briefly.] I have a saying that goes like this, 'If we always do what we've always done, we'll always get what we always got.' So, if you're happy with what you're getting, then just build upon that or enhance it to the extent that you can.
"But if there's something that you're not liking, then you need to change something. And that's where you involve all the rank and file, not just the top [brass], but get everyone in the entire department involved with coming up with an internal solution and match that up with some suggestions from the outside, the external solutions, and then figure out how to deal with the issue. But an outside chief comes in with different perspective, a fresh set of eyes, to say, "Let's take a look around and see what we need to do be doing a little bit differently." And that's what I think I bring to table."
"Well, I think you do what you need to do. We follow, obviously, the UCR guidelines. But I don't think that what Dallas has been doing is something to get hypercritical about. They were trying to look internally and compare Dallas to Dallas, so. But the bottom line for me is that with the UCR codes, I think you need to follow the guidelines and then try and measure yourself against others based on those guidelines."
When pressed if there were any things that he'd want to work on, Davis responded: "Just of the top of my head, I really would like to see if there're some more ways that we can leverage technology." He went on to talk about updating DPD's Web site and ways to make it easier to keep area neighborhoods "onboard with changes in crime patterns," because he said "heightening awareness" is one of the best ways to prevent crime.
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"One of the things that has really interested me, and why I applied for the job, is that I really think that Chief Kunkle has set a good foundation as it relates to the officers and their willingness and their ability to connect with the community. Obviously, there's more work to be done as it relates to that, which is one of my priorities, because the real key to preventing crime is our ability to connect to the community and to create venues for the community to work with us, so externally we have to do that, and internally we have to make sure that we have a department that understands who our customers are and understands dignity and respect. And I really think Chief Kunkle, and the department, has come a long way in establishing and making that happen."
"The first thing I would do is spend a lot of time listening to people inside and outside of the department. From my readings, obviously, there's a little bit of a disconnect between the rank and file and the [department] administration -- which is not all that unusual, by the way. I've worked in four police departments. That disconnect is going to exist to some degree, but the goal is to minimize it as much as possible. ...
"All of us want more police officers. There's not a police chief in America who would tell you, 'I don't want more police officers.' But the long-term answer to preventing crime is using the million-plus two eyes and ears of this community as a resource. That's what we really have to do. The real success in fighting crime is finding out how you can get the citizens that live in the community to work with you in addressing issues that are relevant in their particular neighborhoods."
Would he do things the same way? Or would he change things up? "I can't say. I would have to look at it [once in Dallas], but where I'm at now we go by UCR. I think there's some flexibility, in the interpretation, as it relates to simple assault versus aggravated assault, but we go by what the requirements are as it relates to UCR."
He mentioned a program that's been implemented in Louisville that targets a different crime trend each month. And he also stressed the importance of re-entry programs for juveniles and adults that seek to help people turn their lives around.