By Jamie Thompson
Published in D Magazine May 2018
Photography by Elizabeth Lavin
Reneé Hall is the first woman to run the department. She’s not so sure Dallas is ready for that.
On paper she wasn’t a front-runner, but last summer U. Reneé Hall came to Dallas and charmed the city manager and council members by being approachable and funny and smart and, yes, though we’re not supposed to mention it, attractive, too. A fit 140 pounds at 47 years old, she can hold three-minute planks and outshoot many beat cops on the firing range. She collects handguns and vintage gowns and Louis Vuitton bags. She loves being a cop, and she loves being a woman. It’s the feminine stuff, she thinks, that has dogged her as Dallas’ first female police chief. That and the color of her skin. But more on that later.
Start with the “pedicure shoes incident.” Here’s how Hall tells the story: it was a Saturday in November. She’d been working 17-hour days. She’d gone to a roll call that morning at 8, and now she was off-duty. She wanted to get a manicure and pedicure and relax. She’d just dipped her feet into a tub of water when a member of her security detail ran into the salon and told her a SWAT officer had shot himself in the leg during a raid. Hall took her feet out of the water, and the nail technician gave her plastic slippers. She climbed into the back of an unmarked black SUV and raced to Parkland Hospital.
In the officer’s room, Hall hugged family members around the bed. “Chief, I’m so sorry,” the injured officer told her, embarrassed about his misfire.
“Hey, you’ve got nothing to apologize for,” she told him. “Those rumors about me making SWAT a part-time team? That’s out the window. You guys clearly need training.” Everyone laughed. Then Hall got serious. “Are you good?” she asked the officer.
“Yeah, Chief, I’m good.”
Someone noticed the slippers Hall was still wearing and said, “Don’t step on the chief’s toes. They’re not finished yet.” More laughter.
Hall didn’t think anything of it. She went back to the salon and finished her pedicure. But days later, she heard that stories were circulating around the department: Chief showed up at the hospital in pedicure slippers!
“It was like I’d flown down on a unicorn or something,” Hall told me recently. To her mind, the conversation should have been about how great it was that the chief had stopped what she was doing on a Saturday and had gone straight to the hospital. Don’t male cops get haircuts on their days off? Trim their beards? “They’ve never seen a woman in this role. It’s always been a man. So they’re not processing the pedicure shoes. That’s what women do. We get pedicures. I’m a girl. There’s hair, makeup, nails and toes.”
Hall has talked about the pedicure incident at substations across the city, where she attends roll calls to meet the officers under her command. Not long ago, a cop at Southwest asked what Hall was doing to improve morale across the struggling department.
“It’s never enough,” she told him. “When I got here, you guys wanted beards. I gave you beards. You wanted outer vest carriers. I got those. You talked about never seeing the police chief in the past. I showed up at the hospital when someone was injured, and it wasn’t enough because I had on pedicure shoes.” The cops laughed. “Whatever I do, it’s never enough,” she told them. “At some point, you’ve got to stop looking at me to improve morale. And you’ve got to start looking at yourselves.”
Read Entire Article Online