Wilmington police chief announces surprise retirement

 Christine Dunning and Mayor Dennis Williams (photo courtesy of the mayor's office)

Christine Dunning and Mayor Dennis Williams (photo courtesy of the mayor's office)

After a year on the job, Wilmington’s Police Chief Christine Dunning announced she is retiring.

Dunning has accepted a position with New Castle County where she will work as an executive assistant. Her last day with the department will be Friday.

“It’s been an honor to serve the City of Wilmington as an officer with the Wilmington Police Department for the past 27 years,” said Dunning in a statement. “I would like to thank Mayor Williams for the tremendous opportunity and privilege to serve as the first female Chief of Police in the history of the Wilmington Police Department. I look forward to moving on to a new chapter in my life, and I am excited about the new challenges and opportunities that await.”

The announcement comes after months of tension between the police department and Wilmington Mayor Dennis William’s office over the violence, including a record number of shooting that took place in the city in 2013.  The mayor’s office made the announcement in the form of a news release to media outlets.  Including in the announcement was a photograph of Williams and Dunning together.  The photograph is not dated.

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In December, Mayor Williams warned that a change in leadership could be coming if things didn’t turn around.

Despite their disagreements, Mayor Williams had nothing but good things to say about Dunning as an officer.

“As the city’s first ever female chief of police, Christine Dunning, served the city and citizens of Wilmington with distinction and honor,” said Williams in a statement. “She tirelessly worked to combat crime and keep our neighborhoods safe. I worked closely with Chief Dunning throughout her career, and can attest to her passion for and dedication to the community. I thank her for her 27 years of service and commitment to the City of Wilmington. I appreciate her time with the Williams Administration, and welcome her to the ranks of distinguished retired officers.”

Inspector Bobby Cummings will serve as the interim police chief while the department conducts a national search.

Wilmington City Council President Theo Gregory thanked Dunning for her service in a statement but said he’s concerned for the department as they carry out revised policing plans.

“I extend my thanks and appreciation to Police Chief Christine Dunning for her many years of service to Wilmington and its citizens, and wish her continued success as she moves to another chapter of her outstanding career in law enforcement,” said Gregory. “My immediate concern with the chief’s departure is the steadiness of the Wilmington Police Department which is just beginning to carry out a revised policing plan as announced last week by the mayor. I have confidence in acting chief Bobby Cummings that he’ll keep the department on course as the search for a new chief is underway.” 

Attorney General Beau Biden said he “applauds” the mayor’s decision to seek new leadership.

“I also believe the officers of the Wilmington Police Department deserve and desire the best leadership to implement policing strategies that will reduce crime, strengthen communities and re-build public trust, strategies that have proven to be effective in many cities such as Boston, New York, and more recently Chicago.” 

A committee of law enforcement professionals to oversee the process, said Williams in an audio statement posted on the city’s website.  During Williams’ run for mayor in 2012 he said he would hire someone outside of the department to implement new policing policies as a way to control crime.  At the time the city had set a record number of homicides for the second year in a row.  When he announced Dunning as his pick for chief he said that he was showing leadership for his ability to change course.  


Williams announced a new policing plan which take 60 officers and put them in various areas of the city as both patrol officer and community liaison. 

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