The first time I met retiring Chief Harry Dolan was the night of December 4th, 2007. The 32nd Raleigh City Council had just been sworn in at Memorial Auditorium and a young Travis and I were there. After the short ceremony, we both wandered through the hall only to come across a police officer as friendly as he was tall. Dolan warmly introduced himself to me and to Travis, kneeling down to talk to my son at his level.
Those two minutes told me all I needed to know about Raleigh’s new police chief: Dolan was going to engage the public, and kids mean a lot to him.
Over time I would learn more about Chief Dolan, namely his voracious appetite for information on leadership. It seems like every time I’ve heard him speak he touted some new book that he’d been reading. This unending quest for knowledge showed me that the Chief was not only a good leader, but a good student as well. He studied all available information to make himself better.
When Chief Dolan took over the Raleigh Police Department, the department was already award-winning and highly respected in the community. Violent crime in some areas was at unacceptable levels, however, and Dolan immediately went to work to remedy this. Dolan could have tried doing what had already been done, in other words arresting ourselves out of the problem. Instead, he engaged the public to get to the root of the problems. The bad guys were locked up, of course, but even more, Dolan went to community leaders to do what we all could to keep kids from choosing a life of crime. Through a comprehensive approach to problem solving called community-oriented government (COG), Dolan partnered with community leaders and other city departments to create the city’s first teen center, the St. Monica’s Teen Center on Tarboro Road. More than a year after the opening of the Teen Center, crime is dramatically down in that area of town. Teens enthusiastically meet at the Teen Center, where they make plans to make their community better. It’s been my privilege to speak to these kids when I’ve been invited in to talk about blogging and other topics as a guest of the Digital Connectors.
Throughout his five years of serving as Raleigh’s police chief, Chief Dolan’s whole emphasis has been “how can we do better?” His relentless pursuit of excellence has made a huge difference in the strength of our neighborhoods and encouraged partnerships in these communities which might not have ordinarily blossomed. His community policing initiative has provided residents with a go-to officer to report the small stuff they see – before it turns into big stuff. That has helped tremendously to bring stability to once-troubled neighborhoods.
Chief Dolan might have been content to do the same old things that had been tried before, but he has had the courage say “wait a minute, is there a better way? Can we be more effective than we are now?”
It has been my pleasure to work with Chief Dolan during his tenure here. He has done an outstanding job in getting the best out of the Raleigh Police Department. He will certainly be missed by the citizens of Raleigh.