Farewell to the Chief

After five years, Chief Kunkle is stepping down as Dallas Police Chief.  This is a time of mixed feelings for me.  When somebody does a great job, you hate to see them go. However, you have to be happy when a person gets to leave on their own terms.  In my interactions with him, I have found him to be honest, straightforward, and accountable.

Some Police Chiefs previously in Dallas and across the country are often not in their blues, have drivers, and seem to enjoy the notoriety of being Chief more than actually doing the job. Not our Chief; I’ve never seen him out of uniform. 

He was responsive to the community and to city leaders.  Chief Kunkle didn’t put his finger in the air to check the temperature before he commented or made decisions on officer-related incidents or other issues.

I also don’t believe that he upset the entire rank and file with some of his decisions. One of the toughest jobs of a Chief is to discipline your own officers, and like any work situation not everyone will be happy with such an action.  Banning the chokehold and ending high-speed police chases has saved lives.  It’s a fact.

I do think there should be a search for a position such as Police Chief, Fire Chief, City Manager, and other high-ranking positions.  That being said, there are several candidates within the department that are immediately part of the discussion to be the next Chief should they decide to apply. 

The measure of a good boss, or Chief in this instance, is often shown in the people he has promoted in other positions of leadership.  Chief Kunkle leaves the department in great hands.  Promoting Chief David Brown to First Assistant Chief after he did a stellar job leading the Northeast Division, Deputy Chief Sherryl Scott as the leader of the South Central Division (formed under Kunkle’s watch), and having great people like Lt. Craig Miller as the head of homicide are just a few instances of Chief Kunkle having an eye for leadership.

I don’t believe anyone was being intentionally slighted with respect to his announcement.  It doesn’t change the fact that Chief Kunkle is retiring, and it’s not about focusing attention on yourself.  This was the Chief’s moment, and I’m sure that everyone was notified within the proper timeframe. The last thing that I would want to see is this hiring decision being politicized in some way.

Chief Kunkle often showed up at places you wouldn’t expect like city budget meetings and other functions, and would engage citizens even when it wasn’t required of him. While he has a reputation for always being serious, he has a great sense of humor if you ever get to talk to him.

The last time I saw him was at a restaurant near downtown. I was with a buddy that wanted to meet him, and even thought he was in the middle of his lunch he took a few minutes to talk with my friend.  I bet that’s the part he’ll love best: to be able to sit down and do the simple things in life without interruptions.

I can’t see him retired for long.  But for the five years he was in Dallas I was glad to call him Chief; he earned the title in every way.


One Response to “Farewell to the Chief”

  1. Rawlins Says:

    Chief Kunkle also promoted Patricia Paulhill, a role model woman leader who is also an African-American, to her post as Deputy Chief Southeast. As I have written before, she has transformed the area. Anyone who is fair-minded and knowledgeable regarding Chief Kunkle…and yes… the legacy he was forced to deal with in the aftermath of his predecessor whose regime was a travesty…will salute this fine man who has done an impossible job well.Random Highlights for me: As someone who actually saw two people killed in a car chase at Fair Oaks and Abrams when they were broad-sided by a speeding police car chasing a stolen car…the chase policy was not popular with many but to me it was common sense taken to a higher power.His stirring speeches when we buried our police officers killed in the line of duty. I believe in this case there were 4…the most recent being this early year’s loss of the remarkable hero, Senior Corporal Norm Smith. Listening to Chief Kunkle at the service(s) or on the media, it was always clear that his pain and sorrow were immediate and sincere. His fair-minded and even-handed treatment of those who were involved in racially sensitive storms like the incident in Plano earlier this year. Kunkle is clearly color blind and it became clear when his hand was forced.I beg people to raise their glasses and toast this man, Chief David Kunkle, for the work he has done to attempt bringing equality and parity to the force’s applications…and for the humanity he showed throughout. As someone…myself…who was a victim of the police’s fake arrest scandal dating to shortly before Kunkle took the helm….and someone who took the DPD to trial and won a jury verdict regarding that abuse….I was privileged to meet privately with the Chief after the verdict and I can tell you it was amazing to have access to this man in his Headquarters’ offices. He listened, he shared his feelings in real terms rather than by rote…. I don’t mean to overstate this man’s legacy, but as someone who has been in Dallas throughout my life, trust me when I say his likes we have never seen before. I only pray we see them again. I nominate Jan Easterling of the Northeast Division of Patricia Paulhill of the Southeast. Both 20-plus year veterans, both former SWAT team trail blazers as the first women….both pros. And yes, they would be the first women. As a man who recalls when the first women were even HIRED in the DPD, this matters to me.

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