Raleigh police chief Dolan's good run

August 17, 2012 

At 54, Chief Harry Patrick Dolan of the Raleigh Police Department seems youngish to opt for retirement. Perhaps he’ll find a rewarding – and less stressful – way to extend his 32-year law enforcement career. But to consider just the facts, Dolan has indeed announced that he’ll retire from the Raleigh post he has held for the past five years.

Crooks and thugs may say good riddance, but for the general public that counts on its police force to serve and protect, Dolan will be missed.

A city that seemed caught in an intensifying cycle of violence, much of it gang-related, when Dolan came aboard has seen marked improvement. The chief’s enlightened approach to “community policing” – working with residents in vulnerable neighborhoods, focusing on the young people who can be pulled into gangs in the absence of hope and lawful opportunity – was a clear success. Homicide and robbery totals fell, especially in poorer sections east and south of downtown.

Dolan returned to head a department where he served as a beat cop early in his career. The six-foot-eight chief, who customarily wears a regular uniform while on duty, has cut an imposing figure. But he has been personable and accessible, traits that have helped win residents’ confidence.

His tenure has not been entirely without bumps in the road. Dolan was an enthusiastic backer of the proposed new high-rise public safety center that would have been built next to City Hall. After a long standoff, a divided City Council couldn’t agree to move ahead with the project. That left the Police Department headquartered in North Raleigh office space – serviceable, perhaps, but not what the chief had in mind.

Lately, Dolan and the union representing rank-and-file officers have wrangled over a new evaluation system that he put into effect. His take: A more accurate gauge of performance. The union’s take: Essentially a quota system that could lead officers to make unjustified arrests. Has Dolan not felt he received proper support from his civilian bosses?

As always, the selection of a new police chief will be a key decision for city leaders. Harry Dolan fortunately will leave that new chief many successes on which to build.

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