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Dallas hires Detroit officer as its 1st female police chief

DALLAS — Dallas announced Wednesday that it has hired a Detroit deputy police chief to be its first female police chief and lead a department that saw several officers killed last summer when a gunman opened fire during a protest.

U. Renee Hall, who starts Sept. 5, will step into the role tasked with hiring hundreds of officers.

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

Hall, who currently directs Detroit’s neighborhood policing bureau, will replace David Brown in Dallas. Brown retired in October.

The finalists announced this summer for the job consisted of candidates within the department and across the country. David Pughes has been serving as interim Dallas police chief but didn’t want the position permanently.

Brown’s leadership was lauded after four Dallas officers and one transit officer were killed in July 2016 during a protest. However, police unions criticized him during his tenure for declining morale, how he was addressing a surge in violent crime and for not doing enough to retain officers.

When fully staffed, the department has funding for 3,600 officers. But with a sharp increase in retirements and officers leaving for other police departments as a result of the ailing Dallas Police and Fire Pension, the department has less than 3,100 officers.

More are expected to leave before Hall’s start date, when the changes to the pension plan go into effect. The Legislature passed a bill that requires higher officer contributions and a reduction in benefits to fix the plan that was projected to go insolvent in less than a decade.

Detroit faced its own pension woes a few years ago when the city negotiated with employees and public safety unions to adjust their pensions to help the city come out of bankruptcy. Public safety employees kept their benefits, but lost their cost-of-living increases.