There’s a new Chief in town.
On Sept. 5, former Detroit Deputy Chief U. Renee’ Hall assumed the role of Chief of the Dallas Police Department. She is the first female to serve in this position in the city’s history, and joins county Sheriff Lupe Valdez and county District Attorney Faith Johnson as the third minority woman leading Dallas County’s largest law enforcement agencies.
How does Chief Hall like Dallas, so far?
“I love it,” she said.
Hall was born, raised, and spent most of her life and career in the city of Detroit. Though she left home for college in Grambling, LA, Hall returned to Detroit for graduate school with aspirations to become a lawyer.
But things don’t always go the way we think they will.
“As my grandmother always said, if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans,” Hall said.
The Detroit Chief of Police was one of Hall’s graduate professors, and it was his guidance and encouragement that brought Hall into law enforcement.
Such a path may seem fraught, especially for Hall and her family. Her father, Officer Ulysses Brown, was killed in the line of duty in 1971. At the time of his death, Hall was only six months old. The murder remains one of Detroit’s oldest unsolved cases.
Still, Hall joined the Detroit Police Department at the age of 28. In fact, Hall feels as if her career in law enforcement is much more than something she simply fell into or chose — indeed, Hall believes the career chose her, and that it did so on behalf of divine powers.
“God holds my life, my future,” Hall said. “Anything that I do or have been given is through the grace of God. The reason I’m here is divine; if it was not God’s will, it would not happen.”
She has a personal story to illustrate this. As a young recruit, Hall had never held a firearm before. And, like all recruits, she had to learn how to use one. But when she went to the shooting range, she discovered that she was an exceptionally good shot — to the notice of her instructors
Over the course of the next 18 years, Hall became one of the most lauded figures in Detroit’s law enforcement agencies. Under her direction of enforcement, the Detroit PD experienced not just a 40-year low in homicides, but also double-digit reductions in overall crime. Hall has earned numerous accolades, has been named a “Woman of the Decade” by the Native Detroiter Magazine, and was honored as one of Michigan Chronicle’s Women of Excellence in 2015.
Clearly, her time in Detroit has made her especially prepared to serve in Dallas.
“Law enforcement cannot be done by itself,” Hall said. “People say we need 600, 700 more officers — even if we had that many, we’d never have enough officers to ensure no incidents happen. We need the participation of everyone working together.”
To achieve this, Hall is adamant about the importance of community in policing, and ensuring that both the police and the community coexist on good terms. She said she learned early that not everyone likes or respects law enforcement, but that can’t prevent her and her team from doing their jobs.
“You have to be present,” Hall said. “You have to be transparent and honest. You have to be vulnerable to a certain point. And you have to be committed and work hard.”
She insists that working with the community is about so much more than rhetoric and crime statistics.
“You have to show up and listen, follow-up, have a dialogue,” she said.
This means giving the community the chance to raise concerns about law enforcement, and even to call out the department if there is a mistake or some wrongdoing. Hall wants to make the community a part of the police as much as she wants to make the police a part of the community, and to include that community in decision-making processes.
Hall was quick to point out that this community includes both young and old, alike.
“The seniors in a community are no different than any other dynamic in a group,” she said. “Seniors offer a large knowledge base, and we should have resources to keep them involved as the city grows and moves.”
Hall added that she would love to see more Dallas programs catering to seniors.
On the policing front, she mentioned a program she had initiated in Detroit. The addresses of senior citizens in the community were noted, and officers responding to a call at those locations were informed of this so they could better prepare for whatever situation there was. Hall would like to see such a program enacted in Dallas.
But she also has ideas beyond law enforcement.
“I would love to see programs surrounding seniors that include movies in the park, kind of like an old drive-in,” she said.
For Hall, it comes down to her sense of community: the community for which she serves, and the community in which she, and everyone else, lives.
“I know there’s a lot of things that take place for the seniors in and around our district,” she said. “Including them in our community, making sure they’re not the lost generation — that’s how it should be.”