City Activists Not Surprised
By Ashley Moss
Dallas’s first female police chief resigned on September 8, just three years after taking over one of the of nation’s largest police departments.
U. Renee Hall, who was selected to lead the force in September 2017, informed Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax in a letter that she would step away from her duties effective November 10.
“I am extraordinarily grateful for the opportunity you gave me to serve the residents of Dallas,” Hall said in her statement.
She indicated in the letter she was considering other law enforcement career options but she did not name them specifically.
“Over the last few months, I have received a number of inquiries about future career opportunities,” she wrote in the letter, which was released Tuesday afternoon by the city.
“As you can imagine, for many reasons, I must keep my next career step confidential,” she wrote. “Let me assure you that I will remain committed to my true calling, which is law enforcement.”
Broadnax accepted her resignation, but noted in his statement that Hall would remain in her position until the end of the year – a few weeks beyond Nov. 10 – in order to assist the city with a number of ongoing police initiatives.
“I spoke to Chief Hall this afternoon and asked her to remain in this key position until the end of 2020,” Broadnax said in his statement. “She has agreed to do so.”
“That will enable us to complete the short-term goals of the R.E.A.L. Change initiative,” he wrote. “I am extremely grateful to Chief Hall for extending her time in Dallas. This year has been tumultuous and uncertain. A few more months of her leadership are key for several projects and for a seamless transition within the police department.”
He could not be reached late Tuesday for comment.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said he was not caught off guard by the chief’s decision.
“I want to thank Chief Hall for her service to the city of Dallas,” the mayor said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. “I had not spoken to the chief about her decision, but I was not terribly surprised by it, considering the recent public statements by my city council colleagues.”
“Chief Hall had the burden and the distinction of being the first woman — a woman of color, no less — to serve as the police chief here in Dallas. That was not lost on me. I wish her the best in her career and in her life moving forward.”
Meanwhile, some activists said the chief’s move was inevitable following a number of heated exchanges between citizens protesting police brutality and her department.
“I wasn’t surprised that it happened,” said Trace Hughes, 23, of Dallas, and a protestor with the group “We Take The Streets,” which leads a protest daily at City Hall. “I’m Black, so it’s always hard to see a Black woman resign but, as an activist who wants to see change from the police force, it is what it is.”
Hall did not explicitly cite a reason for her decision; however, her resignation comes after months of unrest and mounting criticism of her handling of protests in Dallas in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
Floyd, an African American father, died in May while in the custody of Minneapolis police after a white officer kept his knee pressed on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, despite Floyd’s cries that he could not breathe.
Protests of excessive force and of unfair treatment by police erupted all over the country, including in Dallas.
On June 1, hundreds of protestors attempted to cross the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge as part of a demonstration against police brutality. Dallas officers, saying they needed to clear the bridge to allow for traffic flow, sprayed tear gas on the protesters. Initially, they denied doing so. After protesters showed proof of injuries from the tear gas, Hall admitted her officers had used tear gas.
Following that incident, a 90-day ban on usage of tear gas against peaceful protesters was implemented.
Some protesters said the police chief displayed a lack of compassion and appeared to some as unrelatable.
“I think that (fallout from the bridge incident) solidified her resignation before it came,” said Tramonica Brown, 28, leader and founder of Not My Sons, a Dallas organization dedicated to improving communication between local police and protestors.
“We were grieving,” Brown said of protesters, including herself, who were on the bridge that evening in June.
Hall, said Brown, “took an aggressive approach and tried to diminish what people were doing in pouring their hearts out and she caused combative situations among peaceful protestors and the police.”
“If she had shown a real commitment to the community to do better…then we wouldn’t be in this situation right now.”
Yaheim Israel, 33, founder of the Watchmen, an association of residents who support open carrying of guns and whose members have marched alongside various protests, agreed that Hall faced mounting pressure from protesters in the city.
“She felt the pressures of our protests and it weighed on her,” he said Tuesday evening in a telephone interview with I Messenger Media. “She could never admit that she allowed too much. If she had held herself accountable, then maybe she would not have resigned. What we need is accountability.”
“We’ve been out publicly for 100 days straight, and we want them to hear us and feel us, that we are not going to stop.”
Hall also faced increasing criticism from City Hall over the bridge incident.
On August 18, in a special meeting of the Public Safety Committee held virtually, city council members asked Hall to address an 85-page report detailing four days of protests in Dallas after the death of Floyd. The details in the report began with a demonstration at Dallas Police headquarters on May 29. The report reviewed incidents through the June 1 demonstration on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, which resulted in 674 citizen arrests. No one was charged.
City council members raised a variety of concerns in that meeting, from the amount of time it took to produce the report to a perceived lack of transparency about the use of force against protestors, as well as the use of tear gas and other less lethal ammunition.
Hall acknowledged challenges in her resignation letter.
“It has not been easy,” she wrote. “These past three years have been saturated with a series of unimaginable events that individually and collectively have never happened in the city of Dallas.”
“I am proud that this department has not only coped with an unthinkable series of events, but we have also managed to implement critical reforms that were clearly needed for the Dallas Police Department to meet our 21st Century policing goals.”
Tuesday, city council members acknowledged her contributions to the city.
“I appreciate Chief Hall’s collaboration with community members across Dallas and her ability to work within the diverse fabric of our great city,” City council member Chad West wrote in a Facebook post. “I wish her all the best in her future endeavors and look forward to working with Council and staff to ensure a smooth transition.”
Hall met Tuesday with members of her command staff to share her decision, Broadnax said in his news statement. She could not be reached Tuesday afternoon for further comments.
In her letter, Hall broadly cited her accomplishments.
“We have accomplished so much by standing together in support of community policing and changes in the way our officers perform their duties in 2020,” she said.
Hall also wrote that she remains committed to law enforcement, which she called her “true calling.”
She said in the letter she was proud of the city’s police department, “even in the midst of challenges related to community policing, citing her initiatives to create more effective community partnerships and responsible policing.”
Valerie Fields Hill contributed to this report.