Top Chief

David Kunkle is the most popular police chief in America today--and in London tomorrow. Or something like that.

Tomorrow, Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle leaves for London as part of an FBI program that allows big-city chiefs from all over the country to train with and learn from their counterparts abroad. "Most of the people are going to be from England, and there will be some Scotland Yard officials," says the chief, who's never been to England and welcomes the weeklong working trip. Good thing he didn't leave a day later. Otherwise, he would have missed basking in the glow of an Associated Press piece making the national rounds today. Julia Glick's story, which in many instances bears the "scandalous" (says the chief, with a slight chuckle) headline "Dallas rebuilds scandalized police department," points to his myriad achievements since taking over from Terrell Bolton, including ridding the department of some 30 officers (14 alone since last month) and decreasing crime in one of the country's most crime-ridden cities. Writes Glick:

"Kunkle immediately demoted three top chiefs and fired officers involved in the fake-drug scandal. He banned the use of a neck hold that had led to a suspect's death and a community uproar before he took office. He also helped lower crime in the sprawling city of 1.2 million people. Dallas still tops the FBI list of crime-ridden metropolises, but rates dropped in every category last year, including a nearly 20 percent decline in murders.

Because Dallas ranked No. 1 in burglaries in 2005, Kunkle began requiring officers to respond to burglary scenes rather than taking reports over the phone. The department also adopted a New York City model of policing by examining statistics to pinpoint crime hotspots. A special unit of officers was assigned to problem areas for days to disrupt criminal activity and make arrests."

Kunkle says the story actually began circulating last week, but only around Texas and usually appearing in smaller cities' papers; today, though, it's everywhere from the San Jose Mercury News to CBS News to Forbes. He says he hasn't received a lot of reaction from the piece as of yet, insisting The Dallas Morning News' piece last week commemorating his two-year anniversary stirred more response. (The AP piece reiterates many of the same points made by Dallas' Only Daily, which pointed out that the chief's "zenlike aura--a demeanor that calms people down rather than riling them up--has had a quieting effect on a department hamstrung by lackluster leadership, poor hiring, City Hall interference and low morale.") And how does he feel about the AP story?

"It's nice," he tells Unfair Park. "I've been here two years, and that's a fairly long shelf life for a Dallas police chief. Getting good press is good--and surprising. Dallas is a tough environment. Ultimately, I am convinced in this job you can't succeed because there's nothing you're supposed to do well that you can do good enough for everybody." How very zen of him. --Robert Wilonsky
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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky