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Dallas Names Its First Female Chief Of Police: Renee Hall

Detroit Police Department
Ulysha Renee Hall. Hall goes by her middle name, Renee.

Renee Hall will be the first female chief of the Dallas Police Department.

Hall is the permanent replacement for Chief David Brown. He retired in October after leading the department and the city through the aftermath of the July 7 ambush that left five officers dead.

Her appointment means women will now have the top three law enforcement jobs in Dallas County. She joins Sheriff Lupe Valdez and District Attorney Faith Johnson.

Hall is a 16-year veteran of the Detroit Police Department; her current job is deputy chief, directing the city’s Neighborhood Policing Bureau.

Her father, Ulysses Brown, spent five years as a Detroit cop, including time in a special police unit, cracking down on prostitution. He was killed while on duty in 1971, when his youngest daughter was just six months old. His killer was never caught. Hall said she channeled that anger into passion for her job.

“I am honored to be chosen to lead the Dallas Police Department at this critical time in its history,” she said. “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.”

Hall was one of seven finalists, including three internal candidates, for the position. Interviews were conducted last week. 

“Chief Hall is a proven leader with a stellar background and a passion for public service,” Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax said. “These are qualities I believe are critical as we tackle crime to make our city safer while addressing organizational and policy issues within the department.”

Watch Hall give a press conference in Detroit

'An infectious presence'

In a press conference Wednesday afternoon in Dallas, Broadnax said that while all seven candidates were qualified, Hall stood out with a strong background, leadership potential and an "infectious presence" that ultimately earned her the job.

Broadnax, an outside hire himself, said he isn’t worried about Hall leading the department as a newcomer to the city. He said his decision was not based on the "first six months" or the learning curve, but rather what Hall will be able to achieve in the long run. 

The city manager said Hall will have to focus on three areas when starting the job: boosting morale in the department, hiring and retaining officers and connecting with the community.

With low pay and pension troubles, Dallas officers have been leaving faster than they can be replaced for years. The department is currently almost 400 officers short of the 3,500 its leaders say are needed.

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, according to a news release. She's also a graduate of the FBI National Academy and a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. 

Hall developed community policing and mentor programs in Detroit. And while she was there, the city had a 40-year low in homicides and double-digit reductions in violent crime for three consecutive years.

Her first day on the job in Dallas will be Sept. 5.

Statement from Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson

“I want to welcome our new Chief of Police, Ulysha Renee Hall to Dallas. She has an impressive resume and 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. We are grateful for the service and leadership of the six other candidates, and I know this was a tough decision for City Manager T.C. Broadnax. 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.” 

Lifting morale

Last week, Hall and her six competitors for Dallas’ top police job addressed reporters and spoke with residents at a meet-and-greet. She said that as a deputy chief in Detroit, she helped steer that department through the city’s bankruptcy, pension woes and pay cuts.

She and other candidates listed low morale and an exodus of officers as major challenges facing the Dallas police department.

"I bring a level of experience to be able to lift morale,” Hall said.

She said the other finalists were "phenomenal” but “none of have been able to lead a department with these levels of challenges.”

Hall also addressed questions about possibly being the city’s first woman police chief.

"This job has not been defined as a man's job,” she said.

Hall will take over for Interim Chief David Pughes, who did not apply for the permanent position. 

Brandon Formby, a reporter with the Texas Tribune based at KERA, contributed to this report.

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.