Surprise pick for Wilmington police chief

Wilmington Mayor-elect Dennis Williams has selected Wilmington Police Captain Christine Dunning to be the new leader of Delaware’s largest municipal police force.

Williams campaigned for the mayor’s office as a former member of the Wilmington Police Department who would return a sense of safety to city streets.  The naming of Dunning as chief is one of the first steps in trying to meet that goal.  “I look at her career, I look at her capabilities, I look at what she’s done over the years on the Wilmington Police department… she’s my candidate,” said Williams.

“We have to look at new innovative ways to approach the crime problem,” said Dunning after being introduced by Williams this morning in front of the People’s Settlement building on 8th Street.  She says the spot was appropriate because that’s the area of her first walking beat in the early 1990’s.  “Mayor-elect Williams and I believe in strengthening the fragile relationship that exists between the community and the police department in certain areas of the city.”

Williams selection is a surprise considering the way he adamantly campaigned on picking the new chief from outside the ranks of the Wilmington Police Department.  When asked the qualifications he would look for in a new chief during WHYY’s debate this summer, Williams said he would not hire someone who has not led a department of at least 300 officers.  “I will not hire within the Wilmington police department.  My chief of police will come from the outside.  I’ll do a nationwide search,” he said at the August debate.

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When asked today about going back on his campaign statements, Williams said, “That’s true leadership.  I made a decision.  I’m the mayor.”  He added, “What changed my mind was, I looked at the candidates, as I stated again, and I felt that she was the best choice.  I stand by that.”  

He says he considered three other candidates for the post before selecting Dunning.  He wouldn’t identify the other candidates other than to say that the others were not members of the Wilmington Police Department.

Dunning becomes the first female to lead the Wilmington Police Department.  She’ll replace Chief Michael Szczerba in January, pending approval by Wilmington City Council.  

Dunning has lived in Wilmington all her life.  She attended Padua Academy and graduated from the University of Delaware 1984.  She joined the WPD as a patrol officer in 1984 and advanced through the ranks to her current position of commanding officer of the Human Resources Division.

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