National search begins for new Raleigh police chief

tcmcdonald@newsobserver.comSeptember 30, 2012 

— RALEIGH -- Harry Patrick Dolan’s five-year tenure as Raleigh’s police chief ends Monday, and the search for his replacement is underway.

The city’s posting for the job says it is looking for someone with “eight years of progressively responsible executive-level experience in police operations and management,” and City Manager Russell Allen says the nationwide search will mirror the process that occurred when Dolan, then chief in Grand Rapids, Mich., was hired in 2007.

Many residents were pleased with the way that search turned out and say they hope Dolan’s successor carries out his legacy of community policing, with an emphasis on youth mentoring, that helped lead to a reduction in violent crime throughout the city, particularly Southeast Raleigh.

Mayor Nancy McFarlane hopes the city’s next police chief will have at least two of Dolan’s qualities: his ability to communicate and listen.

“Chief Dolan was very, very good at listening to the citizens and putting that input into a plan of action that would make things better,” McFarlane said.

Harvey Schmitt, president and CEO of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, agrees the city should hire someone with Dolan’s leadership and communication skills.

“The business community was very satisfied with Chief Dolan’s work,” Schmitt said. “The neighborhood policing program went very well. I think a community like ours would benefit from continued capability in that direction.”

Octavia Rainey, a longtime city activist and co-chair of the North Central Citizens Advisory Council, worked closely with Dolan, particularly in late 2008 following the fatal drive-by shooting of 16-year-old Adarius Fowler on Tarboro Road. Less than a month later, the department kicked off its community policing program on Tarboro Road, holding monthly meetings with residents to identify problems, then developing steps to improve public safety in the neighborhood based in part of what they’d heard.

Rainey said she hopes the city will hire a new chief who thinks that diversity is important for the city and who will maintain the community policing initiative Dolan started. She also thinks it’s important for the new chief to be visible in Raleigh neighborhoods.

“Come out, meet with the people,” she said. “Patronize restaurants in economically challenged neighborhoods.”

From within the ranks?

The city chose Dolan over the other finalist, Kent Sholar, who had spent 24 years with the department and served as interim chief during the search. The current acting chief, Cassandra Deck-Brown, also worked her way up through the department.

George Passley, a former Raleigh major crimes detective who now heads the police department’s youth mentoring program on Tarboro Road, said he would love to see the next police chief come from within the ranks.

“It’s a very unique police department with a real sense of place,” he said. “I retired five years ago, and it still feels like family. There’s a lot of personal feelings and respect among the officers. That has a lot to do with the style of management over the years.”

Passley noted that sense of family dates back to the 1980s when Fred Heineman was chief. He said even though it’s a large department, officers throughout the ranks know one another on a first-name basis and know one another’s families.

“The city of Raleigh itself continues to grow. We have people coming here from all over the world,” he said. “If we get someone who is already in-house they will have more understanding of what’s already in place.”

Challenges ahead

Dolan’s successor will need to patch up relations with the Teamsters union local that represents about 90 percent of the department’s 770 sworn officers. In the months before Dolan announced his retirement, the union criticized a new officer evaluation system implemented on July 1 that it said relies too heavily on officers handing out citations and making arrests, amounting to a “thinly veiled” quota system. The union said 200 police officers and employees signed grievance letters opposing the evaluation system, known as Priority Performance Measures.

The union also asserted that there was an atmosphere within the department with Dolan at the helm that discouraged employees from making constructive criticism of the leadership.

Dolan denied the department was using a quota system and derided what he described as scare tactics that gave residents that would be pulled over during traffic stops by officers who wanted to fulfill their quota numbers.

Rick Armstrong, a former Raleigh police officer who is now a union representative, said the most important quality for the new chief is a willingness to listen to rank-and-file officers.

“Some of the officers felt there was a lack of communication between the chief and the patrol officers,” Armstrong said. “With the evaluation system, the rank and file officers did not have any input as to when and how it would be implemented.”

Application process

Raleigh will accept applications for the chief’s job until Oct. 25. City manager Allen said historically the city receives applications from all over the country, but typically less than 100.

“Probably close to 50,” he said. “Police chiefs are not a highly mobile group of people. Chiefs like to get into communities and then stay.”

Allen noted that Raleigh is seen as an extremely attractive community, with a stable government and safe communities. He expects the list of candidates to be whittled down to two or four over the next several months.

“Their names will be disclosed to the public, and they will be invited to a public community forum,” Allen said. “They will all be asked the same questions based on feedback from police employees and the community.”

Allen said he’s trying to “keep an open mind,” about who the next chief should be.

“Each chief may have different ways and approaches. I believe in strategic planning,” he said. “We will be looking for what have they done and what type of reputation do they have.”

At the St. Monica Teen Center on Tarboro Road on Friday, a couple of teens skateboarded in the parking lot as Jaquan Bennett, a 17-year-old junior at Enloe High School, walked out the front door, backpack in tow. Bennett was in middle school when Adarius Fowler was fatally shot a block away. He does not remember the shooting that gave birth to the Teen Center or the community center next door.

“I hope the new police chief will work with the community and try to get involved in activities,” said Bennett, a member of the Teen Center advisory board. “Teenagers are very active. Teens need to be inside, doing constructive stuff instead of roaming around getting into trouble.”

McDonald: 919-829-4533

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