The seven finalists for Dallas police chief toured police facilities Monday and began a series of meetings and interviews with city officials and community leaders.
The new leader will replace former Dallas Police Chief David Brown, who retired last year.
The finalists were not permitted to do media interviews Monday, but other people are doing plenty of talking about the candidates and the selection process.
"I'm hoping it's not a dog-and-pony show, just to say we reached out into the community," said the Rev. Ronald Wright.
Wright, a longtime community activist, is disappointed he was not invited to serve on one of the interview panels City Manager T.C. Broadnax has devised for input on the selection.
"We need a chief of police that's willing to sit down with us and straighten out the mess that was created by the police department," Wright said.
Community concerns about police brutality are partly caused, according to Wright, by a police department that does not practice what it preaches about good officers reporting misconduct.
"When the police officers are investigating shootings in the neighborhood, they say, 'You need to stop that 'don't snitch' thing,' when they can't stop what they're doing," Wright said.
Another activist who was invited to participate in finalist interviews is Dominique Alexander. He was an organizer of protests against police last year in the weeks after the July 2016 ambush that killed five Dallas officers at the end of a Black Lives Matter rally. After Alexander refused to stop the demonstrations at Brown's request out of respect for the murdered officers, Alexander was arrested himself for outstanding warrants.
"To have that individual on the panel puts salt in the wounds, and I think the city manager is out of bounds for doing that," said George Aranda, Dallas chapter president of the National Latino Law Enforcement Organization.
Aranda will participate in finalist interviews. He said this selection is exceptionally important to police with violent crime edging higher, manpower shrinking and dozens more officers considering immediate retirement to avoid a less attractive pension that takes effect Sept. 1.
"We're looking for someone who can come in here and take it immediately," Aranda said. "We need a leader to take this department in another direction. We're beyond the tipping point. We're beyond the low morale status."
Broadnax has said Alexander was invited to demonstrate inclusiveness and transparency but will have no more input in the final selection than other panelists. Alexander has said complaints about his participation are unjust.
Thomas Glover, president of the Black Police Association of Greater Dallas, said his group is not opposed to including Alexander but does have extremely high expectations for a new chief.
"They have to be fair and they have to be someone who supports the rank and file," Glover said. "The only major city in the state that will be paid less than us in 2019 will be El Paso, Texas. So, we have to have a chief of police who is a cheerleader."
After 36 years with the Dallas police force, Glover said he is virtually certain he will retire before the pension benefit reduction takes effect.
Manuel Valadez, a leader of the Dallas Crime Watch Executive Board, said citizens are concerned about low morale and falling manpower because they want crime reduction achieved over the past 10 years to be maintained and improved.
To do so, Valadez said, a new chief must also inspire residents so they will participate in crime watch groups and neighborhood volunteer patrols.
"That presence has been shown to reduce the crime rate significantly in neighborhoods," he said. "It is going to be challenge for whoever accepts this position, but working together, we can make it happen."
A meet-and-greet event with the finalists is open to the public at Dallas City Hall Tuesday evening from 6 to 8 p.m.
Broadnax has said he will announce next steps in the selection process after interviews scheduled through Wednesday.
The finalists, in alphabetical order, are:
• Malik Aziz, Deputy Chief, Dallas Police Department
• Carmen Best, Deputy Chief, Seattle Police Department
• Renee Hall, Deputy Chief, Detroit Police Department
• Michel Moore, First Assistant Chief, Los Angeles Police Department
• Luther Reynolds, Assistant Chief, Montgomery County (Maryland) Police Department
• Gary Tittle, Assistant Chief, Dallas Police Department
• Rick Watson, Deputy Chief, Dallas Police Department