New Dallas Police Chief's Life Was Shaped by Tragedy, Self-discipline and Detroit's Struggles

DETROIT -- She remembers her childhood home as the Kool-Aid house, the place where other kids would come to play, get a cold drink and maybe some of the pork chops her grandmother had cooked. Hydrangeas bloomed in the front yard.For U. Renee Hall, the little two-story white-sided bungalow in a fading neighborhood on Detroit’s east side was a wonderful place, where her mother and grandmother raised her in a strict but loving household, where she learned to be as strong-willed as they were.In September, Hall will become the first female police chief in Dallas history. Her story begins in the shadow of her father’s murder, when she was six months old. It traces through the struggle of Detroit itself, where she served 18 years as a police officer, and where her abilities proved equal to her ambition.If Hall, 46, is nervous about her latest assignment - moving from her hometown to run a big department facing a pile of difficult issues - she shows no sign. Nor do those who have supported her along the way."She's always just about the most impressive person in the room,” said Detroit’s mayor, Mike Duggan, who first met Hall when he was a prosecutor more than a decade ago.“She listens to everybody. She comes to the right conclusion. She doesn't put up with any nonsense,” he said. “She was ready to be a police chief. It was just a matter of which city.”***Hall’s family came from the deep South. Her mother’s side arrived from Mississippi; her father’s side from Alabama, family members say. Both traveled north during the Great Migration of blacks fleeing Jim Crow and searching for opportunity. By the 1960s, thanks to the auto industry, Detroit had a strong black middle class.Hall’s father, Ulysses Brown, spent time in the military and then joined the police department near the time of the 1967 Detroit riot. He worked the morality squad, busting pimps and gambling joints.He met Bonnie Hall while she was working in a neighborhood store. “My dad thought he was a handsome gentlemen,” said Renee Hall’s sister, Terrea Hall. “My mom was a very fancy dresser. She was stylish.”  Continue reading...

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