Charlottesville Chief of Police RaShall Brackney, a finalist for Dallas, Texas’ top law enforcement position, highlighted her law enforcement experience during a recent virtual public interview for the position.
Brackney is among seven finalists for the position and was selected from a pool of 36 applicants, according to KRLD. She is the only woman finalist and one of two who work outside of Texas.
She has declined to comment on the her candidacy since the news broke on Dec. 11. If she is offered and accepts the position, it will continue a churn of top leadership in the city since the Unite the Right rally.
Brackney in 2018 became Charlottesville’s first Black woman police chief. She replaced Al Thomas, who retired in the fallout of the 2017 rally. He received a confidential settlement agreement to stay on the payroll through July 2019.
On Wednesday, all seven of the finalists participated in a virtual Q&A hosted by the Dallas government, answering a series of questions selected by Dallas City Councilors. Each candidate was given four minutes to answer.
The questions were pulled from a list of 25 provided to the candidates ahead of time and centered around violent crime, accountability, community trust, property crimes and department morale.
Answering the first question, which asked candidates why they were a good fit for Dallas, Brackney said not only does she have the on-paper qualifications but the shared values needed to be an effective chief in the Texas city.
“What you won’t see on my resume is that long before we talked about cultural humility, I was designing those curriculum for the state of Pennsylvania for all officers in order to be certified as police officers,” she said. “What you won’t see is the many hours that I spent as the lead of our training academy itself, in designing curriculum and pedagogy, so that we would have the best training for officers in the spaces in which they were going to operate.”
When asked about reducing homicides, Brackney answered that such crimes tend to be connected to and driven by other issues, such as poverty and mental health.
“Poverty is definitely a precursor and people will create their own economies if they don’t believe they have access to business economies,” she said. “Domestic violence has always been an issue, intimate partner violence has always been an issue, and the reason that it still continues to go on is because we are in a patriarchal system.”
Because many factors contribute to homicides, Brackney said, it is not something that police departments can arrest their way out of and that other methods are needed. Citing the Milwaukee trauma-informed model that she used in Pittsburgh, Brackney said police are able to identify people who are most likely to commit violence and then engage them before they do.
During an uncertain time in policing where calls for defunding have sprung out of distrust for the police, Brackney said, the best approach to building trust is acknowledging misdeeds and being transparent.
“In our police departments, in the Dallas Police Department, the Charlottesville Police Department where I’m from and across the nation, we need to own how we have done that through systems and institutions that were built on supremacy,” she said. “And once we own that, acknowledge that, we need to be very transparent about what we’re doing to dismantle that.”
Brackney cited some of her work in Charlottesville as an example of transparency, including posting every one of the department’s investigative detention reports. The reports show when an officer encountered someone, whether it was officer-initiated, the race and gender of the person and the legal outcome of the encounter, she said.
September marked two years of monthly reports on the department’s use of investigative detentions, commonly called stop-and-frisk, and the data shows Black people are far more likely to encounter an officer in the city than are white people, based on their percentage of the population.
Later in the Dallas interview, Brackney talked about the recent conviction of an officer on assault charges following an arrest. After the arrest was brought to her attention, Brackney said she showed footage of the encounter to the Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney, who decided to bring criminal charges.
Brackney was referring to the case of officer Jeffrey Jaeger, a white Charlottesville police officer who was found guilty in Charlottesville General District Court on Dec. 11 of assaulting a Black man.
Jaeger was given a 12-month suspended sentence and two years of unsupervised probation and remains on unpaid leave from the city police. According to his attorney, the conviction has been appealed to Charlottesville Circuit Court.
Brackney ended her part of the interview by again highlighting her four decades of experience and saying she is a proven leader.
“We all have knowledge, we all have resumes, we all have other things, but I stand in this place based on those who have gone before me as a minority and a multi-ethnic person,” she said. “I stand in front of each and every one of you based on my grit and my grace and not necessarily in that order.”
According to WFAA, Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax interviewed finalists Thursday and is expected to make his decision by Jan. 1.