In a surprise move, Dallas Chief of Police Renee Hall tendered her letter of resignation Tuesday. The city’s first black female police chief has come under fire for a lack of transparency in ongoing investigations, including one of a June BLM protest that didn’t end well.
Chief Hall, age 49, has held her position for three years. She was hired from the Detroit Police Department where she was a deputy police chief. Her resignation comes just after her third year anniversary. The odd thing is that not only didn’t she specifically say why she is leaving but she won’t be leaving until the end of the year. Her resignation comes months before she actually leaves. In her letter, she said she’d be leaving by November 10 but that changed when the City Manager T.C. Broadnax asked her to stay until the end of the year.
Hall didn’t mention the lack of confidence in her leadership abilities that six Dallas City Council members expressed after receiving an 85-page report in mid-August concerning the protests in late May and early June. Instead, the police chief says she has received “a number of inquiries about future career opportunities” and for now her next career move must remain confidential. Some council members said her report on the protests was “reactionary, biased and contradictory”.
In the special Public Safety Committee meeting to discuss an 85-page report on the department’s response, council members subjected Hall to the most aggressive questioning she has faced to date since assuming the top job in 2017.
While council members criticized how long it took for Hall to produce the report after the initial protests in late May and early June, their main concern was a lack of transparency about officers’ use of force against citizens after tear gas and less-lethal ammunition were deployed. The report, they said, has left too many unanswered questions and half-truths — even a cover-up of actual events.
“I’m very concerned with how this all happened, and what I’m seeing is a lack of leadership,” said Cara Mendelsohn, who represents far North Dallas. “This has been an embarrassment to our city.”
Hall deflected the criticism from most of the seven council members who sit on the public safety committee. A few of the other City Council members also attended the virtual meeting (there are 14 total).
Chief Hall gave herself a C-minus grade on how she handled the protests. She said her job is to “keep an eye on the entire city.” She delegated decision-making to the commanders in the field. Her hands-off approach to leading the department didn’t sit well with city council members. She was questioned about her whereabouts from May 30 to June 1, the days that were the most critical and tense days of the BLM protests.
A demonstration on June 1 ended in a disorganized attempt to arrest 674 protesters who had marched from the courthouse to the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. After initially denying that tear gas was used, police later conceded it was used.
The report outlined glaring failures in operational planning, communication and unclear directions on how to use weapons like pepper ball guns and other less-lethal ammunition.
City officials tiptoed around specific details regarding unlawful arrests and use-of-force incidents, including one that was a subject of a Dallas Morning News investigation.
Some council members directly contradicted the chief about a key fact in her report, saying it incorrectly claimed that police tried to block marchers from walking onto the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge.
Some council members called her written report biased and one-sided. They sounded more concerned that the police actions that may have injured protesters weren’t highlighted while the violence against police officers at the protests was mentioned – including bricks and water bottles thrown at police.
Even the chief’s supporters voiced concern about injuries “peaceful” protesters received. This must be particularly frustrating to law enforcement across the country. City officials and leaders continue to label BLM protests as peaceful when they frequently spiral out of control or are overtaken by professional agitators. The chief’s report about protests in Dallas cited the bricks and other objects thrown at police officers on the scene. That isn’t a peaceful protest. Given that the protests were due to anti-cop sentiments and those seeking police reform, Dallas police were expected to be hypersensitive to protesters, I assume, as they are across the country.
It sounds to me that the police chief was standing up for her officers but maybe delegating too much responsibility to commanders on the ground. What exactly were police officers supposed to do when the bricks started flying, just stand there or run away? The protesters would like the police to retreat but it seems to me that police have to use any tools available to disperse violent crowds and make arrests.
One council member said that the next police chief will have similar qualities possessed by the current chief.
Council member Jennifer Staubach Gates, who represents a district in northern Dallas, said when the city looks for its next chief, they’ll seek similar qualities to the ones they wanted when they selected Hall.
“We need to have a chief that understands the community and the challenges that exist. We need a chief that can lead,” she said. “Dallas demands a chief that has a relationship with the community — the entire community — and then be able to get along with and understand the different demands of the council members as well.”
A protester claimed victory as the chief’s resignation was announced. Last weekend saw more protests and marked 100 consecutive days of protests in the city. She demands more accountability.
Tramonica Brown, whose organization Not My Son has been protesting and calling for greater police accountability for months, said Hall’s resignation was a sign that protests have not gone unheard.
“It was the reassurance that the community needed,” Brown said. “They are out here and people are noticing and people are feeling it. The pressure is being applied the right way without destruction.”
“This is our first real win,” Brown said.
Brown wants to see more transparency from the next chief: “Somebody who is going to hold her officers accountable. Somebody for sure who won’t assault peaceful protesters.”
The BLM movement has been successful in training the press and protesters to call the protests peaceful. Tell that to injured cops or to the families of police who have been killed. It’s no wonder we are witnessing the string of resignations coming from chiefs of police and law enforcement officers from police departments across the country. Local officials don’t support law enforcement. Chief Hall came in with a mandate for police reform, which she embraced. The rise in crime in Dallas, though, led to criticism of her leadership abilities. Apparently, the police unions “turned on her”, according to one city councilman. Council member Lee Kleinman sums it up nicely – “It just reinforces why we should not be letting unions contribute to political campaigns.”