Just one bad event can erode the relationship between the police department and the residents of a community, a Fort Worth police chief candidate said Thursday night.
Attorney and FBI instructor Anne Kirkpatrick, speaking at a forum with the five other chief candidates, said she knows what it’s like to deal with insubordinate police officers.
“I do know the storms, and leadership is determined in the storms,” said Kirkpatrick, a former police chief of Spokane, Wash.
Kirkpatrick said some Spokane police officers weren’t happy with her when she criticized them for turning their backs to a judge who convicted a fellow officer.
The forum, attended by 150 to 175 people at the Bob Bolen Public Safety Complex in south Fort Worth, was moderated by former Star-Telegram columnist Bob Ray Sanders.
The new chief will replace Jeff Halstead, who stepped down in January after six years on the job.
Assistant Chief Rhonda Robertson has been interim chief. She did not apply for the permanent job, saying she plans to retire.
Sanders read questions submitted by the public beforehand.
“We are dealing with the issue of trust,” Sanders said to the panel. “How do you gain that trust, how do you know that you've got it, and how do you measure it?
“Have honest conversations, be transparent and forthright,” said Abdul Pridgen, a Fort Worth assistant police chief. “If they don’t trust you, they have no problem telling you.”
Jose Banales, an assistant police chief in San Antonio, said officers need to be seen as being approachable.
“If officers take their time to listen and explain their actions, that goes a long way,” Banales said.
Kenneth Dean, also a Fort Worth assistant police chief, said a big part of that trust has to be earned by the chief.
“A chief has to be the most integrity-driven person in the community. If we lose trust in the community, we have lost it all,” Dean said.
Kirk Munden, a retired Houston assistant police chief said he has dealt with people from “all corners of the globe” who come from cultures where they are afraid of police.
“They don’t realize the police are on their side,” he said. “We have to change that.”
Joel Fitzgerald, police chief in Allentown, Pa., said that if police need to ask the citizens for trust, they have already lost.
“We are part of the community. When we start thinking of ourselves as part of the community, then that’s what we become.”
Here are the candidates:
▪ Anne Kirkpatrick, 56, an instructor with the FBI’s Law Enforcement Executive Development Association in the Seattle area who has been a police chief for three different departments.
▪ Kirk Munden, 55, a retired Houston executive assistant police chief who was commissioned in 1981.
▪ Jose Banales, 53, a San Antonio assistant chief who was commissioned in in 1983.
▪ Kenneth Dean, 51, a Fort Worth assistant police chief commissioned in 1992.
▪ Abdul Pridgen, 47, a Fort Worth assistant police chief commissioned in 1992.
▪ Joel Fitzgerald, 44, police chief in Allentown, Pa., who spent the first 18 years of his career with Philadelphia police.
City Manager David Cooke will select the next chief. There is no timeline set for him to make a decision, a police spokeswoman said.
This report includes material from Star-Telegram archives.