Former Dallas police chief David Kunkle dead at 72

Former Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle has passed away.

Kunkle passed peacefully at about 10 a.m. Friday morning after a many years battle with a form of dementia.

He was the only person to serve as chief of three North Texas police departments with a career in law enforcement that spanned nearly 40 years.

Kunkle retired as Dallas police chief in 2010. Right after retiring, he ran for mayor in Dallas. Politics may not have been his calling but policing certainly was, and he well answered that call.

Kunkle took to the streets of Dallas as chief of police in 2004. He worked as a Dallas police officer for ten years, climbing to the rank of major before moving to Grand Prairie and Arlington.

Kunkle was brought back to Dallas as police chief by then-city manager Ted Benavides.

"He was just so brilliant that I knew I had to hire him because he was smart enough to do it," he said. "And also having worked in Dallas, he knew our culture."

Kunkle changed that police culture from responsive policing to community policing and brought down a sky-high crime rate. 

David Brown succeeded Kunkle as chief. He was handpicked by Kunkle to be his number two, preparing Brown as he did so many for leadership."

"He is hired, and we go on a six-seven year run of reductions in overall crime violent crime homicides," Brown said. "And he mentored me, groomed me and let me see let me see the job up close." 

Kunkle’s first job as chief was in Grand Prairie and then nearly 15 years in Arlington as police chief and deputy city manager.

In later years, he made his diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia with his Sarah by his side. Kunkle donated his badges to the city of Arlington.

Former Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson said Kunkle was "a mentor and modeled the characteristics for professional police chiefs to serve the entire community."

 Quiet but strong, Kunkle made changes the troops at first pushed back on, like eliminating DPD officers using a controversial neck restraint.

"And also he stopped car chases except for the most serious offenses, and that did not go over well at all," said Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata. "And obviously now looking back at it, he was right. Absolutely right."

In 2022, he was one of the first-ever recipients of the Dallas Mayor's Distinguished Service Awards, which are given to Dallas residents who made notable service and contributions to the city.

In 2021, a First Responder Wall was dedicated in Chief Kunkle's honor at the Faith Family Charter School in Dallas.

Services for Kunkle are pending.