John Watson delivered opinions on Delaware radio for many years. Now he’s sharing them with you on NewsWorks.org.
History was made by Mayor-elect Dennis Williams in naming Wilmington Police Captain Christine Dunning as the city’s new Police Chief. She will be the first female to hold that position. In so doing the new mayor broke a campaign promise to name the new police chief from outside the city police force.
But at the same time, he lived up to a promise to place women in high ranking positions.
As he put it from the podium when he made the announcement, “Everybody else better get used to it, because women aren’t going away. They make sound decisions, they think very analytically.”
Police Chief-designate Christine Dunning grew up in Wilmington. She is the married mother of three children. She graduated from the University of Delaware in 1984, earning her Master’s Degree while on the police force. Her parents taught her the importance of community service, which she carried with her, as we can see in her excellent police force record; from Community Policing Officer 1990-93, to Commanding Officer (captain) Human Resources Division, 2011 to the present, and Commanding Officer (captain) Criminal Investigation Division 2010-2011.
She has won high praise in being named to her new position from the likes of City Councilwoman Loretta Walsh, who chairs the Police Safety Committee, along with Mike Lawson, President of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge #1. He is quoted as questioning Mayor-elect Williams’ choice of not giving others on the city police force a chance to apply for the position, while picking someone “from the inside.” He said doing that “is ridiculous.”
As for Police Chief-designate Dunning, she ignores all of this. Her press release states “She will work hand in hand with the Mayor-elect to establish a new mission for the department which focuses on creating safe neighborhoods and invests in professional development of the force”.
Speaking from the podium after being introduced, Dunning said, “We have to look at new innovative ways to approach the crime problem. Mayor-elect Williams and I believe in strengthening the fragile relationships that exists between the community and the police department in certain areas of the city”.
Mayor-elect Williams surprised every one in picking Dunning “from the inside”, considering his repetitive promise during campaign debates, to pick a new chief “from the outside.” He said he would “hire someone with experience leading a Department of at least 300 officers.”
He added, ”I will not hire within the Wilmington Police Department. My Chief of Police will come from the outside. I’ll do a nationwide search.”
When I asked him at the press conference why he had changed his mind and picked someone from the Wilmington Police Department, he had no good answer in my opinion. Saying things like, “That’s true leadership. I made a decision. I’m the Mayor”.
That sounded to me like some one saying “I’m the Boss” which is not a good response for a first term Mayor of Wilmington”.
But let’s be fair to the Mayor-elect. And I always try to be fair. It occurs to me Mayor-elect Williams hands were tied in any nationwide search for a new Police Chief in Wilmington, because of the charter code, stating that all full-time employees:
“Must live in Wilmington for their first five years.”
Now just imagine an outsider being asked to move his or her family to Wilmington, which was named the most dangerous city in the nation recently by Parenting Magazine.
Once he takes office Mayor Dennis Williams should work on having the city code changed.
As I said many times on my former talk show, what’s the difference where a city employee lives, in or outside of the city? They would still do the same good job they do now. And that includes the police force and fire department, right? And most of the Wilmington city employees most likely live in the city any way, so having a few live outside the city from day one would be no big deal in my opinion.