The Dallas Police Association is tallying votes tomorrow night for its confidence vote on Police Chief David Kunkle. The results should be announced early next week. Scott Cisney, administrative director for the DPA, says they have no early read on how the vote is going.
Officers have voiced a number of complaints about Kunkle, who took over the department in 2003, inheriting low morale and high crime rates. Under Kunkle’s tenure, crime rates have fallen and citizen confidence in the DPD has risen. But morale among a lot of officers? Not so much. Jump for more.
Still, the move to have a confidence vote is controversial even among members of the DPA, the largest police association. The Black Police Association, the Latino Police Officers Association and the executive board of the Fraternal Order of Police have all expressed support for Kunkle despite some differences.
Complaints against the chief range from the tactical — including his implementation of a no-chase policy for nonviolent and misdemeanor offenders, his ban on the choke hold in 2004, and his restrictive TASER policy — to the strategic, such as staffing issues with the Southwest precinct and his low-tolerance termination policies.
More generally, some even say he doesn’t back officers on the streets when their conduct is challenged, and they take Kunkle to task for not speaking at the March 28 funeral for Officer Mark Nix, who was killed in the line of duty in a shootout in West Dallas.
They also think Kunkle was behind the push to get the appeals process for terminations and demotions changed. A number of officers Kunkle fired in mid-2006 were reinstated on appeal, mostly heard by assistant city managers. But in late March, on the same day Nix was laid to rest, the city council changed the process, requiring that only the city manager herself could hear appeals, and taking away the option of having an administrative law judge hear complaints.
“That day we went to a funeral for an officer. That afternoon we voted to take away their rights,” says Councilman Steve Salazar, who at the time chaired the public safety committee.
The outcome is up in the air — last month DPA members were mailed ballots and the deadline was this week. Some cops say it’s just a publicity move that will get the DPA a little press for a few days and have no effect. Others, however, have noted that a no confidence vote in 1987 against Police Chief Billy Prince was the beginning of the end of Prince’s tenure. And others still wonder why the DPA would call for this vote, given that it never did for Kunkle’s predecessor Terrell Bolton, arguably among the most incompetent police chiefs in Dallas history.