WRAL Investigates

Some question Raleigh police chief's spending

Posted March 16, 2009
Updated February 9, 2011

— On the job for a year and a half, Raleigh Police Chief Harry Dolan has already been on the receiving end of both praise and criticism.

The former Grand Rapids, Mich., police chief – who was a Raleigh patrol officer in the 1980s – came to Raleigh in 2007 with a vision for community policing.

He is seeing results.

Eight new police officers will soon have neighborhood offices on the east side of downtown. Violent crime is down this year, and a lateral-entry program is under way to attract officers with experience.

Within the police department, however, the chief is hearing concerns.

Some say morale among officers is down, which Rick Armstrong, president of the Raleigh Police Protective Association, said is a serious concern.

The RPPA, which represents approximately 400 officers, is worried about officer turnover and 48 vacancies, though Dolan said he expects to have those positions filled as early as June. Twenty-three candidates are in the final stages of the hiring process.

"I think we're focusing more on recruitment when our problem is retention," Armstrong said. "We lost 78 officers in 2008 and 79 officers in 2007."

Some officers who asked not to be identified say they are concerned that some of the department's expenses were unnecessary last year, including recent renovations that included $125,581.96 for signs, furniture and other office equipment in the department’s downtown headquarters.

Harry Dolan, Raleigh police chief Web only: Raleigh police chief on expenses, officer morale

That included $8,374.37 for a custom-made security desk for the lobby; $10,000 on interior and exterior painting and $3,100 to pay for and install carpeting and cushioning in elevators.

The building is slated to be demolished in the fall or early next winter to make way for a projected $226 million public safety center that will house the police department as well as offices for other public safety operations.

Dolan, however, said the upgrades and equipment, all of which started in 2007 and the beginning of 2008 prior to the current fiscal year, were needed so that the building maintains a professional appearance for the public and a comfortable work environment for employees.

"I was very concerned with the appearance of the building. These were reasonable expenditures, all within budget," Dolan said. "I take pride in the building, how it looks and the message that it sends to the community."

Dolan defended another purchase, $2,200 for a television for his office, saying it is standard for administrators to have a screen in their offices to help with presentations.

Dolan said he is sensitive to perception. After being asked about the TV, he moved it the lobby instead of buying a new one, given the economy, for another division within the department to use.

Many of the purchases, such as the furniture, are transferrable, he said, and can be moved to the department's temporary office in North Raleigh or to another police department office when the building closes.

Dolan also paid a consultant $24,000 to teach tactical communication skills, which he and other officers can teach, to help officers in the field.

"We are developing the ability here to continue that work for new recruits and officers to go to further training," Dolan said. "He (the consultant) was able to train our officers and continue to train our instructors, including me. I can't train everybody in the department as often as I would like. And I do not have his skill set as the person who wrote the book and developed the course."

He said officers have reported that the training is changing their interactions with the public.

"So, we've seen great dividends. But we still have a lot more to do," he said.

Internal trainers, such as himself, are better equipped to teach new recruits, he said.
Dolan said there are also plans to start a leadership training program in the fall that will cost upward of $60,000. The costs for both that program and the consultant were budgeted last year, prior to the economy's decline.

"I don't apologize for that. If I have the funds and I can hire the very best to train the very best – the men and women of this department – I will do that," Dolan said. "They are the very best instructors, and the officers of this department deserve the very best because the citizens do. And by training the officers at a high level, we're going to get better service."

The department also spent more than $57,000 to replace shoulder patches on uniforms – including $42,875 on 8,575 shirts and $4,200 on 700 jackets – that say "Raleigh Police" instead of "Capital City Police."

Dolan said officers have expressed concern about the patches over the past three decades and that a uniform committee wanted the change to avoid confusion with the State Capitol Police Department.

Raleigh City Manager Russell Allen said each purchase Dolan made was within the budget authority the chief has.

"They are all very low-cost items when you compare to safety vests or light bars or weapons – many of the things we buy for technology or equipment for police," Allen said.

While the spending items in question amount to a small percentage of the department's $90 million budget, Armstrong wonders if it sends the right message.

"There is a lot of money that appears to being spent on these items," he said. "I think the perception among a lot of the rank-and-file is that this money being spent could maybe be spent more appropriately."

"The most important thing is to have the officers on the street," he continued. "That should be the No. 1 priority."


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  • jimdt Mar 19, 2009

    other locales where the police forces were less than desirable and I've come to appreciate the importance of a metro area's quality of officers which is why I agree with the need to focus on officer retention. I find it hard to believe those officers that are leaving are only the one's we want to leave. I have to think Raleigh has lost some of truly NC's finest.
    Finally, most discouraging is the apparent breakdown in professional respect amongst officers. Clearly unresearched pot shots a officers in NY who "don't do the work to earn it" seems wholly unfounded and unnecessary. Also, as a civilian, I don't get how someone calls an officer of the law a baby. Disagreement is fine, disrespect seems to denigrate the Job.
    Sorry for multiple posts. I do talk too much.

  • jimdt Mar 19, 2009

    I am somewhat incredulous reading the commentary over this article. I read the article and see both sides of this debate. I then read the headlines of related articles: "Officers objecting to proposed rule on off-duty work", "Police: Raleigh's population growth leads to more crime", "Raleigh recruiting cops from neighbors to beef up force", "Pay linked to High Police Turnover, Raleigh Chief Says". Further, I see an article that states the starting pay for a Raleigh officer is about $32,000 and that they are short more than 70 officers from its authorized strength (that may have since changed). I have to wonder why a union representative is being chastised for attempting to underscore the need for officer retention and questioning if all funds are being spent appropriately. If only Geithner was as diligent on monitoring bailout funds!!!
    I have had the privilege of living in Raleigh and loved the town and found the officers to be professional and courteous. My job has taken me to o

  • LongHorns Mar 18, 2009

    Nancy, I dont think anyone called Sgt Armstrong out, he is a great officer i thank him for all he does. But he is acting like a baby. " The Chief spent mony to make the main station look good" when was the last time you or the good Sgt has been there, It looks like a station from the 70's when you have a PD to run at least make it look good. Sgt Armstrong is UNION and if you look into it you might see they are TEAMSTERS not good for the City Of Raleigh!

  • bosshog Mar 17, 2009

    In regard to the poster who described SGT. Armstrong as a "disgruntled employee with an ax to grind", he is a hardworking police Sergeant who puts his life on the line for minimal compensation to keep YOU safe & spends countless hours talking with City Council members, the Mayor, the Chief, and even Senators to better the Raleigh Police Dept. as a whole. His only "agenda" is for officers to be treated fairly, which should go without saying considering all they do for us. He actually has a very good professional relationship with Chief Dolan & meets with him on a regular basis to discuss ways to work together to keep the peace in the department. Quite frankly, nobody could fill his shoes as the RPPA President..he has very strong beliefs & morals and speaks up for those who are afraid to do so themselves and does so in a very professional & respectful manner. Instead of criticizing him, you should be thanking him for all he does for the citizens of Raleigh & his fellow RPD officers.

  • workingforthosethatwont Mar 17, 2009

    A lot of this appears to be long overdue. RPPA should leave this one alone. It sounds like he took my candy. Pick your battles boys.

  • LongHorns Mar 17, 2009

    Dude, Give the chief some time but you and the RPPA wont do that. The RPPA needs to stop complaining, because if you keep complaining you might just get what you ask for. I know Harry very well, keep asking and you shall receive

  • whatusay Mar 17, 2009

    This is like painting a bedroom while the house is burning down. Spending to keep from losing future dollars is insane.

  • The Dude Mar 17, 2009

    The RPPA came out and overwhelmingly supported the hiring of Chief Dolan. So don't characterize their goal as just trying to make his life hard. Dolan made many promises to the rank and file to when their support during the hiring process. He told them he was a "cop's cop" and that he would improve their work conditions and help get them what they needed. Since his hiring he has been a complete politician. Smiling and "listening" to his line guys while completely disregarding what they say for what he wants. Morale falls lower and lower on a daily basis because he continues ask for more and more out of them without giving them anything in return. Raleigh officers were already shouldering more than an officer should as a line officer under Perlov and he said that would change. It hasn't and he just keeps smiling and blowing smoke up the right rears. Budget or not, painting a soon to be gone building three times to get the right color is dumb. That's taxpayer dollars!

  • anonemoose Mar 17, 2009

    The RRPA has but one mission. That is to make life hard on any Chief, unless the Chief if selected from the RPPA ranks. I believe in Police Unions, but just not this bunch. PBA and FOP are much better about looking out for their people, and not irritating management while doing it.

  • lyteoflife Mar 17, 2009

    I can see both sides of the story. Maybe timing was not the best with the tight budgets everyone is on. I thought the city had already announced the delay on the new building, or am I incorrect? If they are having to delay it due to finances, then trying to take care of what they already have is just. Morale is important to anyone in public service like this...police officers, EMT/Paramedics, firefighters, and soldiers. They all put their lives on the line for us each and every day. I am not too happy about the spending seeing they could put it to use (roll it over next year) but hey....they are still staying in a building that was due for demolition, evidently there are repairs that need to be made. TV is NOT a Necessity though.Not really sure why that was. All in all, our tax dollars are being used and we are being told what they are being used for, it could be worse. Be thankful we have a police department protecting our streets as best they can right now.