Former Dallas police chief hopes police and communities can bridge gaps
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Renee Hall is no stranger to unsolved homicides.
Hall was six months old when her father was killed in the line of duty in Detroit. To this day, his murder remains unsolved.
“My goal is to make sure no one else has to live through that same level of trauma,” Hall told CBS News’ Jim Axelrod.
Despite the circumstances of her father’s death, Hall pursued a career in law enforcement. Years later, Hall became a Detroit police officer at the age of 28. She went on to become chief of the Dallas Police Department, leading a force of more than 3,600 sworn officers.
But the pandemic coupled with nationwide unrest following the 2020 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis tore apart trust between Hall’s police force and the communities in Dallas it served.
“If this is a broken relationship, how do I go into your home when a homicide has been committed and say that I’m committed to you to solve a crime when you don’t trust me as a police officer wearing the uniform?” Hall said.
While Hall was police chief, murders spiked in Dallas, a trend that was also evident across the country. But according to numbers from the Dallas Police Department, Hall’s detectives solved more than 70% of homicides — 20 points higher than the national average.
“One of the first things my team and I did (was), we met with them and told them, ‘I don’t want to go to any community where we have great relationships. I only want to go to those communities where our relationships are challenged.’ I started there.”
The next step for Hall: tackling diversity in her own rank and file.
“We went from 17%, 18% Latinos, Hispanics, in the police department under my leadership to about 24% because the largest portion of our community were Hispanic.”
Despite Hall’s efforts at the police department, homicides still occurred, and some were unforgettable.
In 2020, a 1-year-old boy named Rory Norman was fatally shot while he slept inside his Dallas home during a surge in citywide homicides.
“I’d gone to the hospital and saw his body, his very small body,” Hall said. “It was infuriating.”
No arrest has been made in the case, a fact that Hall calls “disheartening.”
“There’s some brokenness in the amount of guns that are on our streets,” Hall said. “There’s some brokenness in the relationships between police and the community. And so what are we going to do about it at this point? It takes work, and it takes owning where we are flawed and fixing it.”