After a five-year tenure, Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle announced his retirement Thursday morning citing a time for change as the impetus for his decision.
"I think in certain jobs there's a need for continuity, and there is in this position. I also think certain jobs there's a need to wipe the slate clean every so often," Kunkle told reporters at Dallas police headquarters. "The [other] reason I felt it was appropriate to leave is I've studied, watched, been a part of this department for almost 38 years and I've seen how chiefs have done their jobs and what happens in the course of serving as Dallas Police Chief."
The news conference took an abrupt intermission when former Highland Park mayor Jack Hammack, who founded Safer Dallas Better Dallas along with Charles Terrell, collapsed on the stage. Several attended to Hammack, who later escorted him into the hallway where he was examined by paramedics. Officials have not revealed why Hammack collapsed, but he is believed to be OK.
Kunkle, who said he made the decision to retire a year ago, said he has a great respect for the Dallas Police Department and is leaving the office at the time when it is not only right for the city of Dallas, but for him personally as well.
"When I came in I wanted, if possible, to leave with my dignity and my head held up. I also wanted to have the abilities to help define the circumstance of the terms of which I am leaving. I'm not leaving tired, disillusioned, for any reasons other than in my mind I believe it's the right time to go," said Kunkle. "As Dallas Chief my greatest respect has been for the men and women who work in this department. They do a difficult job, and what I think can be defined as an impossible job, very, very well."
Since announcing his retirement, Kunkle told the Dallas Observer's Robert Wilonsky that he has been emotionally conflicted due to the intensity of those who would rather not see him leave the position -- though he maintains he believes a change in leadership is due.
In recent years, Dallas police have reported falling crime statistics under Kunkle's leadership, though the classification of some crime statistics have recently been called into question by the Dallas Morning News.
Despite those allegations, in a memo marking the chief's retirement, City Manager Mary Suhm chronicled Kunkle's tenure as one in which he oversaw five consecutive years of overall crime reduction, including a 32 percent decrease in violent crime, a 34 percent reduction in the murder rate, a 27.5 percent improvement in response times to 911 calls and an increase in force of more than 700 sworn officers.
Kunkle mimicked those sentiments and said he believes his tenure marks the best five-year period for the department in the last 40 years.
"I think what I will be most proud of, I think there's is a sense of more normalcy in the department," Kunkle said. "I'm proud to have been part of that, but I also have felt from the beginning that I have been the beneficiary of a lot of unique circumstances and also wonderful people."
With his wife Sarah Dodd at his side, Kunkle thanked those who supported him through the years, including former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller who also spoke at the news conference.
Citing a certain symmetry to his beginning as a rookie officer in the DPD 38 years ago next February, Kunkle had planned for his last day as chief to take place that month. He was asked by Suhm to stay through April in order to give the city ample time to search for his replacement, and he agreed to do so. Kunkle's last day will be April 30, 2010.
"I wear my uniform every day because I want to demonstrate to people that I am, more than anything else, I am a working cop and member of what I think is the best department in the United States."