Raleigh, N.C. — Raleigh's top cop of five years announced Wednesday that he plans to retire effective Oct. 1, making way for the city's first black female officer to run the police department until a permanent replacement is named.
In a memo to police department staff, retirees and alumni, Police Chief Harry Dolan praised the "pride and professionalism" that he says set the department apart.
"I say without reservation that this is truly the finest major metropolitan police department in the nation," he wrote.
Dolan, 54, has been in law enforcement for 32 years and recently became eligible for retirement. In his letter Wednesday, he gave no indication about his next move.
He replaced former Chief Jane Perlov in September 2007, arriving in Raleigh having served nine years as the police chief for the Grand Rapids Police Department in Michigan. Dolan's career includes a stint as a Raleigh officer for five years, from 1982 to 1987, and roles with the North Carolina Department of Human Resources Police Department in Black Mountain and as chief of the Lumberton Police Department.
During Dolan's tenure as chief, Raleigh's crime rate dropped from 4,300 crimes per 100,000 residents in 2007 to 3,781 crimes per 100,000 people last year – a decrease larger than the statewide trend.
Raleigh City Manager Russell Allen praised Dolan as an "exceptional leader" who made Raleigh safer with his hallmark community-policing initiative.
Allen called the retirement a loss for the city.
“His high level of technical and strategic law enforcement skills are matched by his unwavering ethical standards, commitment to the community, pride in the department’s employees and enthusiasm for police work," Allen said.
Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane said in a statement that Dolan's community policing initiative and emphasis on officer training has helped the police department build and preserve its reputation as one of the nation's best police departments.
"I am hopeful that our next police chief exemplifies similar qualities in leadership and strategic thinking that will help move the RPD forward in the 21st Century," she said.
Deputy Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown will serve as interim chief while the department considers a long-term replacement, Allen said.
Deck-Brown joined the Raleigh Police Department in 1987 and worked her way up the ranks as a detective in 1994, sergeant in 1997, lieutenant in 2002, captain in 2003 and major in 2006, when she assumed leadership of the police department's Administrative Services Division.
She was promoted to deputy chief in June 2011, after temporarily commanding daily operations of the department's Internal Affairs Unit and several other operations.
In the memo announcing his retirement, Dolan emphasized the positive, but his tenure was not without turmoil.
Over the past month, he has come under fire for a change to how the department evaluates employees and for the expense of a training trip for police lieutenants.
A year ago, Dolan fired Sgt. Rick Armstrong, who was president of the Raleigh Police Protective Association, on allegations he had sex while on duty. Armstrong denied the accusation and filed suit against the city and Dolan to get his job back. That suit is still pending.
"That just happens (criticism) in the nature of the business. There's always going to be criticism from some corner about something that's related to police," Allen said. "But I know, in this case, it has nothing to do with his retirement."
The RPPA's current president, Eric DeSimone, released a statement Wednesday afternoon congratulating Dolan.
"We have not always agreed with Chief Dolan's policies, but we have always respected his position as chief of police for the city of Raleigh," DeSimone said.
"In his endeavor to replace Chief Dolan, we encourage and implore our city manager, Russell Allen, to seriously consider our next chief's ability to maintain a positive working relationship with the Teamsters Union and the Raleigh Police Protective Association," he added.