Search Underway for Police Oversight Director

Deputy City Manager Kimberly Tolbert
Deputy City Manager Kimberly Tolbert speaks at the Community Police Oversight Board meeting | Image by City of Dallas

A new director of the Office of Community Police Oversight is expected to be hired sometime in June, according to Deputy City Manager Kimberly Tolbert.

“The decision has been made that we believe that it would be in our best interest to bring on a third party to really do a national search,” Tolbert said during a Community Police Oversight Board meeting on Tuesday.

“I believe [that’s] going to give us an opportunity to really be out in that market and definitely bring the best possible candidates to the table and give us an opportunity to bring someone who not only has the experience but … a proven track record and demonstrated performance.”

The office’s interim director, Elaine Chandler, succeeded Tonya McClary after she left in September 2023. McClary, the City’s first director of the OCPO, took on the role in February 2020 after serving in a similar position in New Orleans.

“We have now engaged a firm by the name of Polihire,” Tolbert said. “They definitely have a deep appreciation for the work that needs to happen and to ensure that this engagement process for a new director is done. Polihire has now been retained, and we are moving forward with a contract.”

In March, the Charter Review Commission members agreed to recommend that the director report to the city council instead of the city manager, as reported by The Dallas Express.

“I do think we have a structural problem here,” Commissioner Angela Hunt (District 14) said during the March 26 meeting. “This is one that could actually impact our citizens in a very positive way to create checks and balances. You don’t really get checks and balances when the same person appointing the police chief is also over the community police commission. So, I will be supporting this resolution.”

The existing structure provides that the city manager hires the director of the Office of Community Police Oversight. A charter revision, which would require voter approval if city council members agree to send it to the ballot in November, would shift that responsibility to the council.

“There’s been a good bit of chaos surrounding the city’s Police Oversight Office this past summer,” said Community Police Oversight Board member Brandon Friedman (District 14) during the March 26 meeting.

“That’s why this proposed amendment has come before the commission. I won’t rehash the details, but suffice it to say, the entire episode has reaffirmed for me an idea that I’ve long held, which is that there is an inherent conflict present when the city manager can hire, supervise, and fire the person responsible for day-to-day [operations]. Police oversight offices should be independent, much like an inspector general.”

Tolbert told Community Police Oversight Board members it’s critical that Polihire recruit executives who understand the kind of candidates Dallas officials are seeking for the director’s position.

“We want to ensure that they clearly understand the complexities of police oversight, that they understand the importance of reform, as well as the importance that public safety and justice play here in our community,” she said.

Tolbert also said Polihire plans to talk to each board member before beginning the recruitment process.

“I think [it’s] going to be important to get your feedback in advance of us even finalizing the job description and being able to start the process of getting … applicants. They will also then help with the final development of that job description and the market profile, which will actually go out to begin to recruit candidates.”

Polihire is expected to begin recruiting next week.

“We should have a presentation of a list of candidates that have been vetted, assessed, and evaluated by Polihire,” Tolbert said. “And then we would try to spend time during either late May [or] early June to begin that interview process. Again, this is all to hopefully have an announcement of a new director by mid-to-late June.”

Board member David Kitner (District 13) asked about the company’s scope of experience in hiring for similar positions.

“What is the experience of the group that we have hired … in particular, with police oversight?” he said. “Have they hired anyone in that past for that? When you say presentation of candidates mid-to-late May, how many candidates are we talking about?”

According to Tolbert, Polihire placed the independent police auditor in Alexandria, Virginia, and has previously worked with Dallas; Charlottesville, Virginia; Richmond, Virginia; Prince George’s County, Maryland; and other jurisdictions.

“As it relates to the number of candidates, we want the best. And, so, if that’s three top candidates [or] if that’s five, we will definitely be looking at Polihire to do the assessment and then present us with a slate of candidates,” Tolbert said, adding, “I don’t have a magic number.”

Polihire CEO Kenyatta Uzzell joined the meeting remotely.

“Our primary focus is working with localities [on] appointed boards and commissions, elected officials and appointed officials … in hiring their senior staff or assisting them in hiring their senior staff,” he said. “We’ll show you that we truly embrace the diversity of … our country and trying to bring diverse pools of candidates — highly qualified candidates to those that are making the selection for … your community.”

Polihire has previously placed several Dallas officials, including Paul White, assistant director of environmental quality; Oppong Hemeng, senior climate change coordinator; Tomy Mollas, assistant director of human resources; Hai Tran, ethics officer; and Martine Philippe, director of arts and culture.

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