Mayoral Candidate David Kunkle Explains Why He's No Longer Fan of Verified Response After Advocating For It as Dallas Police Chief

David_Kunkle_debate2_Merten.jpg
Photo by Sam Merten
David Kunkle
Repealing verified response quickly rose to the top of Tom Leppert's to-do list shortly after he become mayor in June 2007. The controversial program required business owners to have someone at the scene of a burglar alarm to verify that a break-in had actually occurred before police would respond.

Not surprisingly, there were lots of folks opposed to the program because driving out to their businesses at night to confront a potentially armed intruder didn't sound so appealing.

The council by an 8-5 vote had approved verified response in December 2005 based on a suggestion from the council-appointed Commission on Productivity and Innovation, which aimed to improve efficiency at the Dallas Police Department since 97.2 percent of the more than 62,000 alarms in 2004 were false.

In '05 and when the council readdressed the issue in September 2007, then-Chief David Kunkle advocated for the program, citing a 45 percent decrease in burglar alarm calls and 0.6 percent decrease in business burglaries during its first year of implementation (March 1, 2006 through February 28, 2007).

Leppert, along with council member Ron Natinsky (who voted against it in '05) and others, took issue with Kunkle's position.

"While being supportive of the DPD and the chief, sometimes you have to listen to the public," Natinsky said, adding he received lots of email and letters from his constituents urging him to vote against it.

One week after Kunkle's briefing, the council by an 11-4 vote repealed verified response.

Since it's an issue where he clearly differed with Leppert and fellow mayoral candidate Natinsky, we asked Kunkle about it during our interview for last week's cover story. Like our item about Natinsky, there just wasn't enough space to cram this into the piece despite our compelling conversation at Kunkle's home near Lower Greenville.

One of the issues you clashed with the council on was verified response. Is that something you would want to bring back as mayor?

That's not quite true, Sam. It was actually the council that pushed verified response.

But when it was repealed you were against its removal. That's what I'm getting at.

Kinda.

You have to elaborate on that because I was there when it happened.

Well, sometimes what you see ... What happened with verified response is the council had a committee on productivity and innovation that they appointed. And that council-appointed committee came up with the idea of verified response.

When they approached me about it, I said, "You cannot sell the idea of verified response." Arlington had tried. Fort Worth had tried. Los Angeles had tried, along with other cities throughout the country.

Even if it's good public policy, its terrible politics is what I said. The council members said, "We're all supportive of it," so the council eventually approved verified response by 11-4, 10-5 or something like that. Then, when the mayoral and council elections came up the next time, it became an issue. I was told by a council member: "You have the votes for it to continue," and it didn't work out that way.

No, I wouldn't pursue verified response.

You wouldn't pursue it?

No.

Even though at the time you were saying it was a good thing?

No, I said it was good public policy and bad politics. And we talked about the number of officers it would save.

You could make the argument that a burglar alarm is a private good, and if they go off, there's a 98 percent chance that it's going to be a call for police that's not a real call, and the private sector can better deal with that. But it's not a winning ... You can't sell that idea, and I wouldn't try.

What I'm hearing is you believe this is a good policy, but you don't want to push it because it's not good for you politically to do so.

No, not good for me politically. You can't get it passed. Any issue that's attributed to poor police response to burglar alarms is going to be blamed on verified response, even if it had nothing to do with it.

It probably shouldn't have been done the first time it happened in Dallas. I was a little surprised that it did because I had seen, like I said, in the immediate area both Arlington and Fort Worth had pursued it. In both cities there was an initial reaction by the committee that heard it: "This is a great idea. Let's take it to the full council." And then it became a very divisive issue that couldn't get moving forward.

The council at the time was supportive of verified response. The majority of them were.

But your job isn't to echo what the council says. Your job is to say what you think...

I did, Sam.

I know. But you're saying at the time you thought it was good for the department to keep verified response.

No, I said it would save officers. I said from the very beginning: It may be good public policy, but it's bad politics.

OK, then.

It came up a second time, and I said the same thing and talked about the ... I think at that time it went down by 10-5 or whatever it was.


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41 comments
Burglar Alarm
Burglar Alarm

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Kimball Reed
Kimball Reed

Let's cut to the chase here! The City of Dallas collects more than $7,000,000.00 per year for the alarm response service, and it cost the city less than that to furnish the police response (be it false or not). Alarm users are paying for the service and giving the city a little extra cash!Dallas makes money providing the service! It's a no brainer guys.

Viore
Viore

Verified response was like New Coke. It looked good on paper but no one was buying it.

Goodcitizen
Goodcitizen

The Productivity Committee didn't understand the byzantine world of Dallas city hall.They were used to front an unpopular program so that everyone in city management could say it was the committee's idea. They then pointed committee members in the direction they want them to go and led them to the people they wanted them to speak to like the folks in Salt Lake City. When the whole thing fell apart after Tom Leppert was elected city officials could continue to say "it wasn't my idea." It is sad to see our public spirited citizens abused that way.

Alarmowner
Alarmowner

Once someone has drunk the verified response Kool-Aid it is tough to get them to change their mind. Put simply, you can manipulate statistics all you want. The public values alarm response by highly trained police officers and believes that is part of what their taxes pay for. To that end they have no objection to paying registration fees or fines if necessary to further support that response. Of 18,000 police departments in the U.S. fewer than 30 have adopted verified response. They depend on other effective programs that preserve police resources while retaining police response. I know for a fact that the city and your committee did not approach anyone in the alarm industry until after you had made up your mind on the issue. Law enforcement leaders throughout the U.S. have embraced the approach developed in partnership with law enforcement and the alarm industry. Alarm management committees are being formed throughout the U.S. to deal with this issue in a positive manner. Bottom line. Once someone pointed you in the direction of verified response you developed "confirmation bias" in which you ignored any information that contradicted your conclusion. This was never a contest. It was about making people safe and protecting the businesses Dallas needs to support public services. The public won when the city council rejected verified response.

Judd D. Bradbury
Judd D. Bradbury

No more posts for people who cannot put their own name behind them. The e-mail you sent below is common knowledge. Like I said, Gary was in fact finding mode. We provided the facts and he voted for the VR policy with the other clean votes. Larry and I both did a mountain of research across the spectrum of safety, response rates, coverage density, and non stop communication with the FBI crime statistics team. It must be unknown to you that the entire board provided all of the e-mails as part of a freedom of information request from the Dallas Observer. Like the rest of the volunteers on the CPI board we advocated for the taxpayers of the city. We presented facts not fear. You industry guys got beat cleanly based on the merit of the proposal. Eventually everyone figures these things out but it does take time. History does a better than average job of telling the truth. That is why you a very shy about posting your real name.

Alarmowner
Alarmowner

The e-mail speaks for itself. Davis said if someone could provide an alternative he would support it. He simply didn't do his research and bought in to the propaganda put out by a few radicals who support verified response. There are plenty of ways to manage alarm issues and police departments around the country that need assistance use these proven strategies. I can document verfied response proponents telling people to keep the idea a secret from the public, avoid public hearings or anything that will let the public respond until council members have made up their minds based on biased and outdated information. Tom Leppert was smart enough to know better.

Judd D. Bradbury
Judd D. Bradbury

Captain no name subsidy protector playing pretend. Larry Davis is challenging Gary Griffith in this e-mail. I am going to guess that Gary did not respond with a better solution. Gary Griffith voted for VR.

Alarmowner
Alarmowner

Here is a copy of Larry's e-mail. I delete the e-mail addresses to protect privacy. Note the last sentence.

-----Original Message-----From: Larry Davis [mailto:ldavis Sent: Wednesday, December 07, 2005 7:58 PMTo: Cc: 'Griffith, Gary'Subject: Verified ResponseI was forwarded your email sent to the council. I chair the commission on productivity and innovation which originated the recommendation to management and the council to adopt Verified Response. We reviewed the actions taken by numerous cities regarding verified response as part of our due diligence.To the best of our knowledge there is no city in the United States that responds to false alarms that has a false rate less than 95%. You mentioned in your email that other cities have experienced a reduction of false alarms of 76%. Please give me an example. If this is true I will recommend their procedure and ask the Council to abandon VR!!!

Alarmowner
Alarmowner

Another lie. Here is a direct quote from the U.S. Department of Justice concerning the report you referred to: "The opinions contained herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position of the U.S. Department ofJustice."Council members ended verified response for the same reason it has been defeated in cities throughout the U.S. - it is a dumb idea and unnecessary if police departments follow best practices for dealing with alarm issues. Once all the facts came out it was an easy decision.

Judd D. Bradbury
Judd D. Bradbury

Yes I remember how the alarm company owners sent their employees to the council briefings. You seemed to leave out that the VR program was recommended by the Department of Justice. Laughable your tales of Larry's e-mail. There was no mistake. The VR program arrested 23 burglars in 9 months while the program was in operation in the City of Dallas. The average response time under VR was 11 minutes. The number of burglars arrested under the program before VR and since? Zero. The response time for a priority 3 call has again returned to 35-120 minutes. I noticed that you skipped responding to the facts about campaign contributions. I also noticed that you and your friend Pretendconcernedparent do not post with your real names. For the folks who are reading 200K is twice the amount of money required to fund a city council campaign.

Alarmowner
Alarmowner

I read Larry's e-mail. The fact is he made the mistake of listening to a clerk from Salt Lake City who hates the alarm industry. Cities throughout the U.S. have cut the number of alarm responses by 60-90% without resorting to verified response. Tomorrow I will provide a link to some of the many stories we see each week about police departments who catch criminals because they respond to alarms. Dallas can't compete with other cities for business or residents if every other city in the area offers alarm response and it doesn't. That is what Mayor Leppert said when he led the fight to repeal verified response. The International Association of Chiefs of Police have said verified response should be carefully considered in light of its many drawbacks - including the fact that guards are not always available or affordable to the poor, elderly or people who live in unsafe areas of the city. Everyone who knows Larry Davis has said he is a nice guy. But he was wrong on this issue. The 400 or so taxpayers who crowded city hall when verified response was considered were almost unanimous in their opposition. The alarm industry didn't spend $200,000 defeating verified response. Once people found out about it they fought it on their own. No one had to tell them it was a dumb idea.

Judd D. Bradbury
Judd D. Bradbury

Ah yes and then you get the industry people with industry links and all. Alarmowner is more like Alarmcompanyowner. Larry Davis would have said none of the things you are suggesting. I was a board member and co-sponsor of the legislation. A slanted view you do present. The Big Corporate Alarm campaign placed about $200K on one side of the "debate". On the other side 10K in private contributions to pay for an information mailer that was not a position document. Industry complains about using municipal dollars on any document that says Verified Response. So contributions are taken to make the city communication a zero cost communication on the new policy. You cannot have it both ways. Every vote including the sitting mayor in favor of VR passing was a clean vote. Several of the votes opposed were not. Mayor Leppert received campaign contributions from the alarm industry. To date no one has presented a fact based argument that disputes Mr. Johnston. But you already know that. Yes the alarm boys worked over the LA city council and many other along the way. I guess you guys were really surprised when you lost for the first time in history in Dallas. As you are pondering buggy whips, tell us all about how your industry lobbied in Austin to ensure that the voice of the Dallas citizen was silenced at the state level. Please share with us the virtues of subsidizing the alarm industry.

Alarmowner
Alarmowner

The information on the alarm industry in the David Kay Johnston book was badly outdated when the book was published and is even more out of date today. The city of Los Angeles, which he used as an example, conducted one of the most comprehensive studies of verified response to date and rejected the idea. The head of the productivity committee told one of my associates that he would not have brought up verified response had he known there were other alternatives. He was chased around city hall by reporters asking why he raised money from security guard companies to support a proposal that would benefit that industry. The city manager wound up apologizing for some of the committee chair's actions. Mayor Leppert showed real leadership is dumping verified response and the city's crime rate has dropped ever since. Those who support verified response probably also think buggy whips are still a good idea.

Concernedparent
Concernedparent

Law enforcement agencies have been looking at verified response since 1980. When presented with better alternatives they have consistently rejected the idea in favor of other measures that retain police response but reduce the number of calls for service. You can learn more about best practices at siacinc.org Of the 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. fewer than 30 have adopted verified response despite a push for the program by a few vocal advocates. There are good reasons law enforcement leaders from throughout the country have reviewed and rejected verified response. Mayor Tom Leppert was correct when he said it sent the wrong message to the business community, was bad for economic development and would cost the city close to a million dollars in income.

Judd D. Bradbury
Judd D. Bradbury

Sam your article on the Mayor's race was brilliant and note worthy. The important thing to do here is to ask all of the candidates their position on an issue and most importantly why they believe what they say. VR is good public policy and ACE is a respectable business. David Kay Johnston is one of the nations leading scholars on public subsidy, Mr. Johnston found that the alarm industry received a subsidy in excess of 2 billion dollars every year from major cities. I am going to suggest that the list of folks who have recognized Mr. Johnston's work is persuasive. It includes the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, PBS, and our own Jim Schutze. The Commission on Productivity and Innovation disbanded itself to assist with budget cuts at the city. In essence we surrendered our city liaison to another role at the city. The chair of the CPI has never resigned. The same board composition existed for more than a year after the VR initiative.

Scott Henson
Scott Henson

It's still a good idea and an even better one for residential alarms, where the false alarm rate is even higher. Now that law enforcement agencies are laying off officers, it's probably time to reconsider it. I had a blog post in that vein reacting to this article, see: http://gritsforbreakfast.blogs...

md
md

No big deal. They tried something and later changed it. I imagine he wanted it as he only has so many officers and he thought their time would be better spent on different calls.

Verifythis
Verifythis

Dallas citizens made it crystal clear that they value police response and that alarm owners, not the general public, was willing to foot the bill. They did not fall for the false impression that every alarm response is a low priority. Workloads vary and I can point you to incident each week where alert officers catch criminals who have tripped alarms. A local television station broadcast dramatic video of a business owner being attacked when he responded to an alarm (a common practice). He was lucky that officer happened on the scene and were there to save his life. Dallas took the right course and rejected verified response because that is what voters wanted. It had nothing to do with the alarm industry. Industries don't vote. People do. Since verfied response was repealed the Dallas crime rate has continued to decline thanks to great leadership at the police department and public officials who have backed the police.

Ptmoore
Ptmoore

Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert made repeal of Verified Response his first priority when he became Mayor. A review of the media coverage from that time demonstrates he had the public's full support. Chief Kunkle was still able to make a significant redution in the crime rate.

The Dallas Morning NewsCouncil Repeals Alarm PolicyDALLAS, Texas (September 13, 2007) – The Dallas Mayor and City Council conceded that the city’s verified response program was a failure and voted to repeal it once business crime actually rose after its adoption. Verified response was in effect for two years, with no demonstrable success. This article explains the statistics and rationale behind the 11-4 vote to abolish verified response.

KXAS-TV, NBC-5Dallas Repeals Business Alarm PolicyDALLAS, Texas (September 13, 2007) – NBC’s news affiliate in Dallas reports on the repeal of verified response. The Dallas mayor explains why "VR" hurts business growth in his city as well as being harmful for current business owners.

KERA-FMDallas Repeals "Verified Response"DALLAS, Texas (September 12, 2007) – This news radio report outlines why the Dallas City Council voted to abolish verified response. During the debate prior to the vote, business owners explain why “criminals have the upper hand” with verified response, and why the program made them fear for their safety.

Dallas BlogCouncil Repeals Verified ResponseDALLAS, Texas (September 12, 2007) – An unusually large audience cheered when the verified response program was repealed by the Dallas City Council. The blog report gives the play-by-play as citizens spoke out more than three to one against verified response, and outlines why council members and the mayor voted 11-4 to eliminate the program.

KTVT-TV, CBS-11Burglar Strikes Dallas Convenience StoreDALLAS, Texas (September 6, 2007) – Dramatic video illustrates why police, not store owners, should be first on the scene of a burglary. This CBS news affiliate airs surveillance footage of four police officers subduing a robber, and the store owner’s son getting injured during the altercation. Just one of many incidents that caused the Dallas City Council to overturn their verified response policy.

WFAA-TV, ABC-8Verified Response "a Joke," Says Store OwnerDALLAS, Texas (August 29, 2007) – Business owners in Dallas call the city’s verified response program “a joke” - among other things. One store owner suffered three break-ins inside six months. This type of anecdotal evidence overrode police claims that their verified response policy was working, and led to the eventual elimination of verified response in Dallas.

KXAS-TV, NBC-5Stolen JeansDALLAS, Texas (August 14, 2007) – A Dallas business owner was robbed three times in six months after the verified response program went into effect. This NBC affiliate news report reveals how criminals are getting bolder with police relying on verified response.

Leessg
Leessg

Former Police Chief Kunkle is an honest man trying to be a politician. He knows Verified Response is the right program for Dallas public safety, but not for the powerful private interest group (alarm industry). The national organization, SIAC, is more powerful than common sense in Dallas. Verified response is still applied in thousands of cities throughout the country, but labeled differently to deceive the alarm customer/user and voting public. It is known as default VR, which.simply lowers the response priority to very slow of no emergency response…. Politically sound, but dishonest and compromises public safety.Popeye

Pat Boyack
Pat Boyack

I remember when this issue first came up it also included not just businesses but homeowners too. As a matter of fact, the alarm companies sent out letters urging people to contact city hall and voice their opinions to stop it. In response it was only used with the business sector.

Bettyculbreath
Bettyculbreath

Everyone who has every been ,and around City Hall, knows when staff is made to push an Item they don't want,but the Mayor or a strong Council member wants it.Kunkle is telling the whole truth all you need to do is sit there and watch the elected person,doing the most explaining about the item, and staff standing there looking. I though all of you knew that trick.That's like the AC Manager said he could not make good recommendation on Love Field vendor contract ,because of so many Council calls with directions.That ACM is no longer with the City.City staff had always wanted to bid the contract. Please pay attention you will pick up on it when an agenda item comes up.

Ptmoore
Ptmoore

The individual who pushed for Verified Response in Dallas said he would never had brought up the idea if there had been an alternative. There was a better plan but he never look into the issue enough to identify it. Cities across the U.S. have curtailed police dispatches to alarm with policies advocated by the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIACinc.org) which is based right here in North Texas and the Texas Burglar and Fire Alarm Association. Former Chief Kunkle is correct that under Verified Response alarm owners often respond to their own alarms and put their lives in danger. Channel 8 did an excellent story on the subject that actually showed one of the attacks. One of the main strategies for Verified Response proponents is to keep the idea a secret from the public until it is too late to protest. That is the strategy that was tried in Dallas. Proponents offer inaccurate and outdated information on Salt Lake City which has a high crime rate and tells residents they are on their own when the alarm sounds. Fewer than 30 law enforcement agencies, out of 18,000 have adopted Verified Response. Entire states have adopted the strategy offered by SIAC and the law enforcement community retaining response by trained officeres while curtailing uncessesary dispatches.

Sharon Boyd
Sharon Boyd

Don't understand why you are doing all this nitpicking against Chief Kunkle. Really disappointed in your priorities. What about the check cashing businesses that Rawlings has funded?

Guest
Guest

Sounds to me like Kunkle is telling the truth but you just don't want to hear it. 97% of of alarms are false and a delayed police response won't make any difference for most of the other 3% (the bad guys are almost always gone by the time the police arrive). As a matter of public policy, it's better to force the people who are responsible for the 97% (the alarm owners and security companies) to pay for that waste, or they have no incentive to avoid mistakes that cost real money. The options that I can see are either: (1) force the private security company to check out alarms first (there isn't any need for business owners to do that if they don't want to); or (2) charge alarm owners enough for each false alarm to pay for the wasted man hours, equipment, overhead, etc. to cover alarm calls. As a matter of politics, such a proposal is DOA.

I prefer my politicians to tell me the truth, even if the truth is that we can't do the right thing as a matter of public policy because politics are in the way. Sadly, they usually can't get elected because us voters as a group like to be told we can have everything we want and it won't cost us a damn thing.

md
md

..."had" so many...

Guest
Guest

It seems like the security industry's unwillingness to bear the expense of responding to false alarms is evidence enough of the significant waste of public resources caused by them. The industry prefers to push that burden to all tax payers, including the ones that know how to turn off the damn alarm before it goes of and the ones that can't afford to have an alarm at all. Moving this expense to the city's books works particularly well for the industry because the wasted expense gets buried in the city budget rather than being passed on to customers or company profits.

Guest
Guest

Shocking to learn that security companies that make a profit off of "monitoring" alarms don't care about the public waste of sending police officers to every single false alarm.

Whistle
Whistle

Nitpicking? Are you serious?

He has no problem touting the merits of his grand Chief position, but when we point out all the errors of that stint, you call it "nitpicking".

Kunkle WAS the reason the verified response issue went down. He was not ONE of factors, he was the sole and only reason the council voted for it. Without his staunch support of verified response it never would have happened.

And, then several years later when citizens complained and it got brought to another vote, he was there again, SUPPORTING IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This shows us precisely who he is. He was doing anything he could to bring down the crime stats so he could look good.

Nitpicking, my ass!

Oak Cliff Res
Oak Cliff Res

It's not about how someone makes money. But since you're on the subject, Kunkle made money off the tax dollars of the citizens by lying and moving numbers around to make it seem like crime stats went down. Rawlings left ACE in 2006 before they started predator lending in 2008. Atleast you are still not repeating that he lives in a gated community.

Rachel Forty
Rachel Forty

This guy's been married FIVE times.

That's way too many times by my standards.

I was there
I was there

The individual who wrote this item could not have been present for the briefing that proceeded the repeal of Verified Response. During that briefing city officials said that fines and alarm registration fees provided more than $1 million dollars a year to the city above the cost of response. Mayor Leppert made the point that Verified Response would hurt the city's ability to attract and retain businesses. Media coverage showed small business owners begging for police protection as burglars drove them to the brink of bankruptcy. Chief Kunkle replaced the members of the city's alarm unit who backed Verified Responses and the head of the citizen's committee that propossed it resigned after the research used to support Verified Response was shown to be incomplete and badly flawed. Once they had accurate and timely information the City Council wanted nothing to do with Verified Response. That has been the situation nationwide and why the few advocates of Verified Response strongly recommend keeping the program a secret for as long as possible. Finally, as to the industry's influence, only a handful of industry representitive addressed the Dallas City Council. More than 400 citizens took time off from work to address the council and oppose Verified Response.

OED_Denizen
OED_Denizen

Not quite sure where your memory comes from but I remember it the way Kunkle has described it.

Guest
Guest

What, pray tell, did "Ace Cash Express" do before 2008?

Talk Time
Talk Time

Yeah, and the 5th one is a his mid-life crisis trophy wife so he can show off at the police station.

Hey, David, what's wrong with women your own age?

Hasanmary
Hasanmary

I remember it Sam's way and I was working in the council office. I am really surprised to even see this story in the Observer. I didn't think you had it in you to ask Kunkle anything that he didn't have a script for. Sam, you really surprised me with this story. Laura is going to treat you like she did Jim Schultz. Oh, she is no longer mayor, so I guess you don't have to kiss her ass.

Joanne R
Joanne R

Check cashing. This is where people go to cash their paychecks when they do not have a bank account or they have such bad credit that if they deposit their paycheck they may have outstanding bank fees that would be removed.

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