The City of Dallas named U. Renee Hall the next chief of the Dallas Police Department Wednesday. Hall, the daughter of a murdered Detroit police officer, is the first woman to hold the position in the department's 136-year history.
"I am honored to be chosen to lead the Dallas Police Department at this critical time in its history,” Hall said in a prepared statement. "I look forward to building on the successes of the past, preserving community trust and ensuring the safety of our officers and the entire Dallas community."
Her appointment means women of color now hold the top three law enforcement positions in Dallas County. Hall joins Sheriff Lupe Valdez, the first openly gay Latina to be elected Dallas County sheriff, and District Attorney Faith Johnson, the first black woman appointed to the position.
Before coming to Dallas, Hall spent more than two decades with the Detroit Police Department, most recently as deputy chief. Under Hall's leadership in Michigan, the city of Detroit experienced a 40-year low in homicides and double-digit reductions in violent crime for three consecutive years.
She is expected to begin work in Dallas on Sept. 5.
Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax said Wednesday Hall is a proven leader with a stellar background and a passion for public service.
"My belief is Renee Hall will be a dynamic chief and do great things in this community," Broadnax said. "She's going to have a great impact, not just on the police department, but the entire city."
City officials said that while Hall was in Detroit she "developed and implemented comprehensive community policing and mentor programs, forged partnerships and established trust within minority communities while also building strong relationships between officers of all ranks and community stakeholders."
In an exclusive interview with NBC 5 Investigative reporter Scott Friedman, Hall said she will work to implement these same types of programs in Dallas. Among her objectives, she said, is having officers more involved in the community, doing service projects, feeding the homeless and working with teens, because "officers can't police a community they don't understand."
"What I've learned from being in the city of Detroit, as you know the city of Detroit went through bankruptcy, we went through pension reform, pay cuts for the officers — they even had holidays taken away, and morale was very low. We did have mass exodus, much like Dallas had, but when we got down to talking to the officers, officers don't necessarily leave just about money. It's not always monetary. They just need to have an environment where they have unwavering support from their leaders, creating an environment of excitement," Hall said.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings welcomed Hall to the city in a series of tweets where he said, "I knew we would get many great candidates, and we did because of the great opportunity. We needed an excellent leader and we got a proven one. I'm pleased with our choice."
"We’ve done our homework on her. We were told that she was very strong in the community that even as a chief level officer in the city of Detroit she gets out and engages the community and actually gets involved in police incidents and maintains a presence in the community,” said Thomas Glover, president of the Black Police Association of Greater Dallas.
The city launched a nationwide search for a new police chief last fall after Chief David O. Brown abruptly announced his retirement. Brown, who grew up in Dallas and attended UT, had led the department for six years, but had spent decades on the force. His departure came only a few months after five law enforcement officers were ambushed and gunned down in downtown Dallas near the end of a peaceful protest.
Since Brown's departure on Oct. 22, the department has been led by interim Chief of Police David Pughes who said early on that he was not seeking to fill the position permanently.
During an event earlier this month in Dallas, Hall joined seven other finalists at City Hall to meet with stakeholders and greet the public. She said then she recognized the city's need to heal after the ambush attack last summer and that she could help do that.
"This job is about skill. It's about the ability to lead, boost morale and fight crime," Hall said. "To bring a city that needs to heal together as a whole. I bring that."
Hall, who was promoted to deputy chief in Detroit in May 2014, was one of two black women among the eight finalists for the job. She edged out five local finalists, four from within the Dallas Police Department, including Dallas Assistant Chief of Police Gary Tittle; Dallas Deputy Chief Malik Aziz; Dallas Deputy Chief Rick Watson and Grand Prairie Chief of Police Steve Dye.
Both Johnson and Valdez released statements of support following Wednesday's announcement.
“I want to welcome our new Chief of Police, Ulysha Renee Hall to Dallas ... it’s exciting that she will serve as the first female chief at the Dallas Police Department. I am proud that she is joining me and Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez on the growing list of females in top law enforcement positions in Dallas County," Johnson said. "There is much work to be done building bridges between law enforcement and our communities, and I am looking forward to all of us working together to ensure success."
"The Sheriff’s Department congratulates Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax on the selection of Dallas Police’s new chief. It was a tough decision because any one of the seven candidates would have made an excellent chief. We welcome Chief U. Renee Hall and look forward to working with her. I am personally aware of the challenges that the first female chief will face. My staff and I stand ready to help in any way that we can," said Valdez.
Hall has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Grambling State University and Master’s degrees in Security Administration and Intelligence Analysis from the University of Detroit Mercy. A graduate of the FBI National Academy, she also completed the Police Executive Leadership Institute and is a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, Hall was 6 months old when her 27-year-old father was gunned down while working a prostitution and gambling case. After failing to report in for 12 hours, his body was discovered only after a man reported finding a person had been shot in the chest. To date, his murder remains unsolved.
"I know what it's like to grow up without a parent who died at the hands of a violent crime. And I know what the citizens feel when their loved one has been taken away from them," she told NBC 5. "So it's important for me to make sure that those individual are brought to justice so there's closure in their lives. Because I never received that closure," she said.
She told The Dallas Morning News that closure was important to her family and that she believed she was finishing what her father started.
During a lighter moment with the media, Hall was asked Wednesday if she'd continue to support the Detroit Lions after moving to Dallas. She said though she was a lifelong Lions fan, she'd be wearing a Dallas Cowboys hat on Sundays -- except for when the Cowboys play the Lions. There will be no conflict this year unless the team's meet in the postseason -- the Cowboys and Lions are not scheduled to play in the 2017 season.
Hall is expected to begin work in Dallas on Sept. 5.
NBC 5's Ashleigh Barry, Ken Kalthoff, Scott Friedman and Eva Parks contributed to this report.