Tracking a new chief

October 1, 2012 

There are several points of encouragement as Raleigh begins the search for a new police chief. Harry Patrick Dolan, the retiring top cop, has performed well and set a good example for his successor. Community leaders are saying they’d like to see the Police Department hold a steady course, in keeping with Dolan’s emphasis on steering young people away from crime.

What’s more, finalists for the chief’s job will be introduced publicly, giving residents a chance to size them up and offer feedback to City Manager Russell Allen, who will make the choice.

Dolan, stepping aside after five years, was hired from Grand Rapids, Mich. after a national search. But he was no stranger, having worked on the Raleigh force early in his career. This time the net again will be cast wide, and given Raleigh’s reputation as a vibrant, well-run and relatively safe place to live, it’s likely to bring in a solid batch of candidates. Looking within the ranks naturally can’t be ruled out, although bringing in someone from outside guarantees a fresh set of eyes and a measure of independence from past allegiances and antagonisms.

A city as large as Raleigh cannot be immune from crime. But Dolan’s strategy of so-called community policing made steady progress in countering gang violence.

Officers set up regular meetings with residents in troubled neighborhoods and gathered crime-fighting ideas at the grass roots. Engagement with young people for the sake of deterrence became a top priority.

Dolan’s knack for listening and communicating is singled out by Mayor Nancy McFarlane as key to his success. Allen will want to find a new chief with the same kind of skills, along with a record of excellent leadership and deep familiarity with law enforcement best practices. The manager’s plan to hold a public forum at which two to four finalists will be introduced and questioned will help sift the best candidate from among the anticipated group of strong contenders.

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