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Meet the Seven Finalists for Chief of the Dallas Police Department

Four have ties to the department. Three are chiefs of other cities. Which direction will the city manager go?

Four of the seven finalists to become the city’s new police chief are current or former Dallas cops. City Manager T.C. Broadnax announced the final slate of hopefuls for the department’s top job on Thursday afternoon, which also includes the police chiefs of Irving, San Jose, California, and Charlottesville, Virginia.

The three who are either current or former department employees include former Deputy Police Chief Albert Martinez, who ran the Southwest Division before leaving to become the top security official for the Catholic Diocese of Dallas; Assistant Chief Avery Moore, who was the East Patrol Division commander; Major Malik Aziz, the longtime head of the Northeast Division; and Deputy Chief Reuben Ramirez, who oversees the department’s Criminal Investigations Bureau and previously was over Internal Affairs.

Aziz was a finalist in 2017 and is currently one of two finalists for the top cop job in Milwaukee, earning support from the local NAACP chapter and the National Black Police Association. Hall demoted him to major in a reorganization shortly after she became chief.

Broadnax has invited 55 organizations to participate in digital panel interviews beginning on December 15. The city manager expects the next chief to begin in early 2021. In the meantime, Deputy Chief Lonzo Anderson, the 23-year veteran and head of patrol who has been a calm and reassuring voice during recent Council meetings, will serve as interim chief ,starting December 15.

Broadnax will make the ultimate decision between the internal candidates and the external: those include Eddie Garcia, the police chief in San Jose; Jeff Spivey, the police chief in Irving; and RaShall Brackney, the police chief in Charlottesville. In 2017, when Broadnax chose U. Reneé Hall to run the department, just three finalists were internal.

Hall eventually lost the trust of the City Council, stepping down ostensibly for other opportunities but choosing to do so after facing weeks of criticism from public officials over her department’s violent handling of protests against police brutality. Meanwhile, violent crime spiked for a second straight year and the mayor and most of Council fully turned against her after her reduction plan fell flat.

It is worth noting that the outsiders are all police chiefs; Hall was a deputy chief in Detroit before she arrived here and did not complete her certification with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement for more than three months after beginning the job.

“We need someone with real leadership experience; they led somewhere else or, ultimately, it would be nice to have some connection to Dallas,” says Councilwoman Jennifer Staubach Gates, the chair of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee. “I think that was some of the challenge with Chief Hall: getting to know the community, government structure, influences of all the stakeholders.”

Longtime activists like John Fullinwider are calling for a chief that can rise to the demands of the moment by holding bad cops accountable and rethinking the police budget to free up money to pay for additional community services in neighborhoods plagued by crime.

“I’m looking for a police chief that can deal with these divisions, that can explain to the uncritical Back the Blue that policing is supposed to be about justice and safety and not harassment and brutality,” he said. “I think the budget of the police department as a sacred cow; those days are over. They can’t neglect every need in the have-not communities and then expect to solve every problem with an armed policeman.”

Mike Mata, the president of the Dallas Police Association, said he felt it was important for the next chief to rally the more than 3,000 officers. Locals, he said, would have an advantage.

“I think you definitely need someone from the area. Although your offenses are the same throughout the country — robbery is the same crime in New York City as it is in Los Angeles — the difference is the climate that you have to work within. The communities that you serve. Those are different,” he said. “You have to have someone that already understand the community and the environment and what have we done that has worked and has not worked, and has a relationship with the leg and with city leaders.”

We will surely learn more about the candidates in the coming days. Aziz has spoken openly and candidly about police reform, how the current spike in violence is mainly terrorizing poor Black and Latino neighborhoods instead of more affluent White ones. In October, he told us, “To get back to the very roots of violence, you’re looking at many variables that go into causation.” He defined those elements as poverty, poor education, and lack of economic opportunity, the very things activists are calling for investment to help fix.

Mata wants to ensure whoever gets the job will be able to sustain support among the department’s 3,200 officers. “I’m the first to admit, it is very hard to keep cops happy, but you’ve got to get the rank and file to believe in the leadership and the mission,” said Mata. “Chief Hall never learned how to articulate to the rank and file exactly what our mission statement is.”

Martinez, when he was working for the department, was the architect of a task force that has now been expanded citywide to crack down on street racing. He will surely have to answer questions about his role as the top security post for the Catholic Diocese; an investigation into sexual abuse there is being led by the department he hopes to run. As head of criminal investigations, Ramirez has been the public face responding to recent heinous crimes, including the “serial killer” who is accused of at least four homicides throughout Dallas-Fort Worth.

Moore has been beside him, explaining the benefit of redirecting officers to crime “hot spots” and explaining that much of the recent spike in murders is happening between acquaintances.

Among the out-of-towners, Brackney, the Charlottesville chief, has been an outspoken supporter of ending the federal death penalty and recently revealed a plan to make public the outcomes of internal complaints investigations against the department’s officers. Brackney, Charlottesville’s first Black chief, said she ordered her department to give protesters “room” but has also been critical of the Black Lives Matter movement.

In October, she said, “The majority of the Black Lives Matter movements have been co-opted by persons who do not reflect the Black Lives Matter original movement and concept as well. The majority of the rallies, demonstrations, and marches here are primarily majority people and they don’t look very diverse in their marches or their rallies.” Brackney also has ordered a weeklong training with the Anti-Defamation League to help root out biases in policing and has decried police unions and law enforcement agencies “aligning themselves with White supremacists and neo-Nazi organizations.”

After the killing of George Floyd, Irving Chief Spivey instituted mandatory training to require officers to intervene if they saw a colleague harming a resident. The Irving Police Department also reconsidered how it responds to mental health calls, pairing officers with a mental health organization and required them to undergo more training to improve their responses.

Garcia announced his retirement as chief of the San Jose Police Department in August. San Jose is the nation’s 10th-largest city in the country, while Dallas is ninth, but he’ll be managing about 2,000 more officers here. He told the San Jose Mercury News that the challenges in Dallas were similar to what he dealt with there: an exodus over pay and pension benefits, a violent crime spike, and a rebuild of the department.

Garcia’s force in San Jose also was criticized for injuring demonstrators; he admitted to making mistakes but still defended his officers.

We’ll know more in the next month. The public is encouraged to participate in the questioning of these officers.

“I think there’s benefits on both sides. The benefit of internal is that they are going to be familiar with the city, the community, but they are also going to have some preconceptions that wouldn’t be, that somebody from the outside wouldn’t necessarily have,” said Councilwoman Gates. “But somebody from the outside, it is a steep learning curve.”

Peter Simek contributed to this report. 

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