Dallas Police Chief U. Reneé Hall abruptly announced yesterday that she will leave her post at the end of the year. As she gets ready to close out her tenure with the department, city leaders and residents reflect on Hall's track record and contemplate what they want out of their next police chief.
Before her three years in Dallas, Hall was deputy chief at the Detroit Police Department. When she left Detroit, the city was experiencing its third consecutive year of double-digit crime reductions and a 40-year low in homicides.
Throughout her time with DPD, Hall has been criticized for not reducing the crime and homicide rates and for increased police response times.
Councilmember Lee Kleinman says he was initially excited to have Hall run the department and he has tried to provide support throughout her tenure. Hall brought some new ideas to the table that, when she got to Dallas, lost momentum, he says.
She succeeded in helping to start the oversight board and was able to build up the department’s transparency, but she never really moved forward with "civilianization," the process of shifting some tasks performed by police officers to civilian workers. Additionally, Klein says crime rates and response times are reasonable measures of success that Hall has not been able to improve on.
The department lost a lot of quality in its command staff when Hall became chief, Kleinman says. The next police chief, he says, needs to be focused on transparency, building a solid team they can trust and responding to the council’s needs, regardless of what the police unions want.
“Unfortunately, we need a strong chief that can also play the political game,” Kleinman says. “The big difference between being an assistant chief in a big city and being the chief is that now it’s political.”
More recently, Hall was scolded for DPD’s response to the police brutality protests and rioting a few months back.
During a Public Safety Committee meeting last month, Councilman Adam McGough said the response to the protests showed a failure of leadership, and the amount of time DPD took to deliver its after-action report was unacceptable.
But some say Hall hasn’t gotten a fair shake in all this.
At the same meeting, Councilwoman Carolyn King Arnold said she thought Hall has been treated unfairly because she is a Black woman. Hall is the first woman to lead the DPD.
"In my opinion, when the history book is written about Chief Reneé Hall’s service in Dallas, she will be remembered as an extraordinary police chief who delivered on her promises for reform in the department,” Arnold said in a statement Wednesday. “She has accomplished concrete changes on the rules and protocols for officers.
Terrance Hopkins, the president of the Black Police Association of Greater Dallas, says Hall had the deck stacked against her from the start. He says she’s always been asked to do more without a lot less.
“You cannot continue to reduce crime with a reduced force,” Hopkins says.
He says he appreciated Hall’s attention to transparency and her progressiveness during her leadership and hopes to see these traits in the next police chief.
Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata has been through five police chiefs during his time with DPD. He says the criticism of Hall is not unwarranted. She gained support from the council by saying she could do what she did in Detroit in Dallas, but that this was a promise she couldn’t keep, he said.
“If you’re going to tout yourself with these as your skills, when you get here you have to be able to perform,” Mata says. “She’s had three strong years to have the opportunity to have some significant reductions in crime and murders and it just hasn’t happened.”
Mata says Dallas doesn’t have the luxury of time. Police morale needs to improve, and violent crime and homicide rates need to be reduced quickly. This is why in the coming months, Mata says the city needs to focus on finding a good interim police chief.
You might expect local activist Pamela Grayson to be happy to see Hall depart. She claims she was shot in the head with a rubber bullet while she was marching on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge during a June 1 protest.
But Grayson says she's disappointed.
“I still had faith that Chief Hall would eventually get this turned around,” Grayson says. “I believe she was mistreated due to her being a Black woman and that was disguised by some as them taking issue with her because she was an outside candidate for the position.”
Grayson says Hall’s leadership hasn’t been perfect, but a new police chief is not the solution to the “ruthless, dishonest, brutal police culture that was long established before she ever got here.”
She says she commends the city manager for hiring Hall and sticking by her these last few years.
Grayson is a more than familiar face in the crowds of protests that have been marching through Dallas for years. Though some community activists have called for Hall’s resignation, Grayson thinks the chief deserves more compassion.
“We have been taking to the streets demanding that law enforcement recognize our humanity, but I do not believe many recognized Chief Hall’s.”
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