For better or worse, Police Chief U. Renee Hall has put her stamp on the Dallas Police Department.
Hall announced on Thursday the most dramatic overhaul of the department in decades.
She drastically reduced the size of the command staff, and in the process, demoted several respected and popular commanders. She reduced the number of assistant chief positions from nine to three, although most of the positions were already either unfilled or soon to be unfilled. The number of deputy chief spots dropped from 13 to seven.
“This department was very top heavy and we had to make some tough decisions,” she said in a press conference. “We recognize that lives are impacted. It was not an easy decision, but the city manager has charged me with the responsibility of leading this department forward.”
Hall said the members of her command staff were chosen after a thorough assessment. Members of command staff serve at the pleasure of the chief. They have no appeal rights if they are fired or demoted.
The changes are effective Dec. 13.
Members of the command staff came to headquarters early this morning to find out their fate. In groups, commanders were told if they were being promoted, demoted or staying the same rank.
The command staff changes were greeted with skepticism and in some cases outright negativity.
“A lot of officers were disappointed in some of the individuals that were demoted and some of them were double demoted,” said Mike Mata, president of the Dallas Police Association.
With the reduction in the size of the command staff came a drastic reshaping of the department.
Some current and former commanders worry that less oversight could lead to mismanagement and corruption in investigative areas, such as narcotics.
A major will now oversee crimes against persons, which include robbery, assaults and homicide, as well as a number of other investigative units. It’s a job previously performed by several commanders.
Hall changed oversight at the city’s seven patrol stations. The stations have been divided into four geographic sectors: central, south, east and west patrol divisions.
A deputy chief will oversee the geographic sectors. Majors will now oversee individual patrol stations rather than deputy chiefs.
“Criminals don’t conform to our geographical enforcement boundaries, and we need a flexible structure to put officers where and when they are needed,” Hall said.
Hall acknowledged the new structure is similar to Detroit, the city she came from. “What you see is 21st century best practices when we look at the structure of a law enforcement agency,” Hall said.
There was anger at some of those left in the command staff. Some are intensely disliked by the rank and file. It was the demotions of popular and well-respected commanders that shocked and upset many.
Mata spoke with some of those demoted. “A lot of them are upset,” he said. “They’re asking why. A lot of them they feel didn't do anything to do deserve this.”
Among those demoted:
Deputy Chief Catrina Shead led the city’s northwest division. She was demoted to major and moved to the city’s central division. Shead is well-liked and viewed with respect by her troops.
Assistant Chiefs Gary Tittle and John Lawton were both double demoted to the rank of major, as was Deputy Chief Malik Aziz.
“Those individuals have been stalwart crime fighters in this organization for many, many years and a lot of the rank and file respected them,” Mata said.
Both Tittle and Aziz had been in the running for the top job and were well-respected. Tittle was recently transferred from his job after Hall announced the review and temporary dismantling of the vice unit.
“I think those caught everybody off guard,” said George Aranda, president of the National Latino Law Enforcement Organizations’ Greater Dallas Chapter. “Does our organization agree with them? No, we don't. But at the end of the day. This is her baby now.”
Deputy Chief Gil Garza was demoted to the rank of lieutenant. Until recently, he oversaw the vice unit and he also was transferred in the vice shakeup. Garza was regarded in the department as a competent and capable leader.
Another commander's fate is yet to be decided.
Major Latoya Porter is currently under internal affairs investigation over allegations that she sold confidential information to help some officers score higher on the sergeant’s assessment test. She remains on administrative leave.
Hall bristled at the description of the rank reductions as demotions.
“That’s your characterization of it, and I would say that’s not a fair statement,” she said. “Each individual was given the same opportunity to compete for a position. What we were looking for was 21st-century policing initiatives and proven strategic leadership.”
Mata called that semantics. “If it’s a cut in pay, that’s a demotion,” he said.
Hall made it clear that if further command changes need to be made that she is willing to make them.
Mata says he has no doubt that’s true after what he saw today.
“I do believe one thing. If there are individuals that are in positions that aren’t performing well, Chief Hall has shown doesn’t have any problem at all reassigning, and I applaud her for that,” Mata said.
Still, Aranda said he’s pleased with the diversity of the overall command staff.
He praised the double promotion of Major Angela Shaw to assistant chief. The move made her the highest-ranking Hispanic in the department. Shaw is regarded as an up-and-comer in the department. She is viewed as an open, engaged leader and is well liked by her troops.
Still, Aranda said he is worried about where the department is headed under Hall.
“The first 30 days were great,” he said. “She said and said the right things and I was a little disappointed in the next 30 days. This department was in turmoil for the last couple of years, and when you have people saying, ‘Man, we want our other chief back, that’s disheartening. That’s disappointing because we had high hopes for chief Hall to come in and fix things.”
No matter what anyone thinks within DPD, the public will judge Hall based on how fast police respond to calls for help and solve their crimes.
She said she has the right team in place to get the job done.