The seven finalists for Dallas Police Chief faced off Wednesday in an online forum, the one opportunity for the general public to meet and learn about them.
The finalists were culled from 36 applicants for the job being vacated by Chief U. Renee Hall who was hired from Detroit three years ago.
Hall announced her resignation in September. Assistant Chief Lonzo Anderson has been appointed by City Manager T.C. Broadnax as Interim Police Chief.
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In the 2017 hiring process, finalists were able to meet and greet residents and city leaders in person.
This time, the COVID-19 pandemic faces the finalists along with Dallas crime, forcing the public forum to go virtual.
“Hopefully the process that's in place will give the community the opportunity to get to know those candidates better,” said police union leader Sheldon Smith.
Smith is Dallas Chapter President of the National Black Police Association. Union leaders had the chance to question the finalists Tuesday.
Smith said officers are anxious for a new chief.
"Not only do we need direction, we need clarity," Smith said.
Two of the finalists come from outside Texas.
Charlottesville, Virginia Chief RaShall Brackney also served as Police Chief at George Washington University in Washington, DC and for several decades before that as an officer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Chief Eddie Garcia of San Jose, California said he was born in Puerto Rico. He said he learned to speak English in California as the child of a single mom and served nearly every role at the San Jose Police force before rising to chief.
Smith said after Hall’s time as chief, an outsider may be a better choice.
“Many of the officers I've spoken to, they would prefer an insider. There are advantages to an insider. They hit the ground running,” Smith said.
Irving Police Chief Jeff Spivey said he’s had a front-row seat to observe the Dallas Police Department, though not actually an insider. Spivey said it would provide him the knowledge and connections of a local, but fresh eyes of an outsider.
Former Dallas Deputy Chief Albert Martinez now leads security for the Dallas Catholic Diocese.
Assistant Dallas Police Chief Avery Moore said he is like a race car, ready to take off as the full chief with a new approach to community policing.
Deputy Dallas Police Chief Reuben Ramirez said he knows the Dallas violent crime problem better than anyone else because all the reports cross his desk in his current role in charge of detectives.
Dallas Police Major Malik Aziz was a finalist for the top job three years ago. He was demoted from Deputy Chief by Hall in a reorganization after she got the job instead.
“There was a period of time, an adjustment period, for the chief to even learn how our department works,” Smith said.
It is Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax who makes the police chief hiring decision.
Broadnax said he taking lots of input from community unions and community leaders who also questioned the finalists.
Broadnax will interview each of them Thursday. The manager has promised to make a decision before the end of December.