Dallas chief's decision to demote top brass shocks rank and file
The names tied to those demotions came as a shock to many former and current officers
By Naheed Rajwani
The Dallas Morning News
DALLAS - Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall has demoted several high-ranking officials, including two popular chiefs who were finalists this year for the job she now holds.
The chief's decision to pare down her leadership staff — from several assistant chiefs to three and more than a dozen deputy chiefs to seven — is an about-face from Chief David Brown's expansion of the command staff during his tenure.
It was expected that Hall would have to demote some people to fit her smaller command staff, but the names tied to those demotions came has a shock to many former and current officers. The changes took effect immediately, and a pay cut will accompany the demotions.
"While the Dallas Police Association agrees the command staff needed to be reduced, several officers she demoted are among the most dedicated crime fighters in the department," the Dallas Police Association said in a written statement.
New vs. old
The police associations often criticized Brown, Hall's predecessor, for his large command staff, calling it inefficient and unnecessary.
Before Thursday, the department had seven patrol divisions, but Hall's new structure splits the city into four divisions: central, west, east and south. Some of those divisions will be broken into smaller patrol areas.
The new structure will put the burden of day-to-day operations at many of the patrol areas on 15 majors instead of deputy chiefs.
And one deputy chief will oversee a bulk of the Police Department's investigations.
Executive Assistant Chief David Pughes, whom Hall has described as her "right arm," will remain her second in command.
Hall's changes are likely to shift how the Dallas Police Department operates, appeasing those who have complained about its having too many chiefs and not enough officers in the streets.
But the changes could deal another blow to a department that has battled low morale and high attrition in recent years. The police force is the smallest it's been in a decade.
Five former chiefs were demoted to major. They are beloved within and outside the department.
Two of the newly demoted majors, Assistant Chief Gary Tittle and Deputy Chief Malik Aziz, were named finalists this year for the police chief job that Hall ultimately got.
Tittle split his time between Dallas and Austin, where he served as the Police Department's liaison on legislative issues. Aziz has been a finalist for chief jobs in other cities, including San Antonio and Miami.
There were promotions in the reshuffle, as well: Both the major and deputy chief from the central patrol division are now assistant chiefs. Deputy Chief Rick Watson, another finalist for the chief job, retained his position.
Chief explains decision
The chief held a news conference Thursday morning to answer questions about the new structure, which she said she's put a lot of thought into.
Hall said she asked city officials such as fire chiefs to take part in the selection process. She said everyone got a "fair opportunity" to compete for the chief positions, saying she wants to move toward "21st-century policing."
"It was not an easy decision," Hall said, "but the city manager has charged me with the responsibility of leading this department forward."
She said the organizational structure isn't set in stone. It will be fluid.
Also in a written statement released Thursday, the chief said she wants Dallas residents to see a more engaged police force.
"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 in the statement. "That includes supervisors and command staff officers."
A shock to the rank-and-file
The new organizational structure, however, was a shock to many current and former officers. Some officers gathered in the back of the Jack Evans Police Headquarters media conference room to hear what the chief had to say.
Some of the officers said they think the changes are "crazy," while another, who's seen shake-ups before, said he was just going to focus on his own job instead of the changes around him.
The Dallas Police Association, which has about 3,000 members, said it agrees that the command staff needed to be trimmed but it is disappointed by Hall's demotions of "the most dedicated crime fighters in the department."
"Our concern is that the absence of these respected commanders will add to the plummeting morale in the Dallas Police Department and increase the exodus of officers," the association said in a written statement.
Dallas ISD Police Chief Craig Miller, who spent 30 years at the Dallas Police Department, said he found the demotions "shocking" because the demoted chiefs are respected and have dedicated their careers to the city.
But Miller said he sees potential in the shake-up because the promotions seem to be innovative.
"She needs to surround herself with people that she thinks will make her successful and make the city safer and make the Dallas Police Department better," Miller said. "She'll be judged by how these people perform moving forward."
City Council member Adam McGough, who chairs the public safety and criminal justice committee, said the council knew that Hall would have to make "some extremely tough decisions" when she came to Dallas. He said he will do whatever he can to allow Hall to be successful.
McGough said he still has some questions and concerns, but declined to elaborate until he speaks with Hall. He said he has already heard some displeasure with some of the decisions from rank-and-file members.
But, he said, "when you make changes like this, you're never going to be able to make anybody happy. The real hope and prayer in all this is that her decisions prove to be the right ones."
He said he believes the department will still move forward no matter who is in charge.
"At the end of the day, we've got the most professional police officers in the country and they're going to do what they always do, and that's come together and make the city safer," he said. "That's the goal for all of us in this."
Hall had warned that her restructuring of the department would likely result in demotions.
"I don't think you hired me from the outside to keep status quo," Hall said during a Sept. 11 news conference. "There are some changes that need to be made, and we'll make those."
She told The News during an interview a week later that she'd do her research before deciding on any changes. She said she wasn't in favor of a top-heavy department, either.
"We've lost nearly 500 officers, so we need to reflect that at the top," she told City Council members in October. "I'm assessing the Police Department as a whole."
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