Dispatches from a Reporter's Notebook

Changing of the Guard

Posted September 14, 2007 2:02 p.m. EDT

The first thing you notice about Raleigh's new police chief, Harry Dolan, is that he's tall, really tall.  The second thing you notice about  Harry Dolan is that  he's tall, really tall.  Okay, you get my drift.  He's in fact so tall that at five-foot-five-inches I almost have to interview him sitting down to make up for our dramatic height differential.

The height thing has the potential to be very intimidating, but after you get past it, Dolan is an incredibly affable man.  The former Grand Rapids, Michigan Police Chief and former Raleigh patrol officer has an easy way of speaking, answering questions directly, without bias, without apology or defensiveness.  These are qualities that should help him to not only be an engaging interview, but to be a solid new leader for the Raleigh Police Department.  I also suspect that these qualities helped get him favorable reviews from the audience during a public forum earlier this year, reviews that no doubt assisted City Manager Russell Allen in the his hiring decision.

Dolan comes in on the heels of Chief Jane Perlov who in direct contrast was a very petite woman with a big personality.  She made many changes in the department like decentralizing  it into districts and using computer technology to track crime statistics.  She also faced adversity- a long, in-depth investigation into the off-duty work practices of officers that resulted in discipline for some and criminal charges for others.  Dolan's challenge will be to continue the good, and bring something to the job which is uniquely his.  He says that "thing" is listening to rank-and-file cops.  He believes if they're happy and have the resources they need to do their jobs, then in turn the city will be safer.

When Dolan came to Raleigh for the forums I ran into him walking down the street.   He was in between his morning forum for the police officers and the evening forum scheduled for the public.  I could see him coming from a block away.  He walked with a slow, comfortable gait, hands casually in his pockets, scanning the familiar streets that he patrolled in the 1980's.  He stopped to chat with us for a minute and when I asked him what he was doing he said he was just getting to know the city again and that he was enjoying it very much.  As the people of Raleigh get to know Harry Dolan, hopefully they will feel the same way.

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