If Frederick Police Chief Kim Dine ran for mayor, he’d win “hands down,” according to former city mayor Jeff Holtzinger.
“He’s very popular,” Holtzinger said.
This week marks 10 years since Dine, 59, took the reins as the top cop in Frederick city. Surviving three administrations is testament to his staying power — a rare feat among chiefs of police, especially for an out-of-towner whose loyalty to a new city was a cause for concern for some skeptics.
After 27 years with the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., some wondered if Frederick was a stepping stone to something bigger for Dine, who has a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s in criminal justice.
“I was asked during the interview ‘How long are you going to stay?’ There was a concern about my commitment,” Dine said. “Clearly, I’ve met that goal.”
It’s not like he hasn’t had other offers.
But he saw possibilities in Frederick: A growing, robust city where his wife, Robin, and two daughters, Haddon and Harper — now 17 and 21 — could thrive and he could make a difference.
Major crime is the lowest it’s been in the city since 1991, despite a burgeoning population, according to statistics from the Department of Justice. Since 2002, Frederick’s population has grown not only in numbers, but diversity. The city’s Latino population surged 287 percent, while the number of residents overall jumped from 52,000 to 62,000.
Under Dine’s stewardship, the Frederick Police Department achieved national accreditation in 2003 from the Commission on Accreditation in Law Enforcement. In 2009, CALEA named Frederick Police Department a “flagship agency,” a model department. Technological tools have helped modernize the department, including speed and red light cameras, license plate readers and surveillance cameras in the parking decks and along Carroll Creek.
“The chief brought to the agency a new way of doing things and a new way of looking at things that have benefited the agency,” said Tom Chase, who retired as lieutenant in 2007 after 30 years with the department. At the same time, Chase said, Dine was conscious of the culture of the agency that he’d been hired to lead.
“That was very important to me because he recognized that the agency has a culture he wants to learn and benefit from ... he was a leader who was not going to run roughshod over the place,” Chase said.
Building bridges, building trust
The police department has garnered a reputation for responsiveness, far beyond the basics of law enforcement. Outreach, engagement, transparency and participation are not just words on a page, but a consistent commitment in action.
“He has taken the words ‘community policing’ and turned them into an action plan that businesses, citizens, employers and everyone understands. Before that, community policing was a unit in the police department, not a philosophy on how you deal with crime and engage the community,” said Alderman Kelly Russell (D), a retired city police officer. Russell was a lieutenant in human resources when Dine was hired.
Part of translating the concept of community policing into a strategic plan of action is making people aware and willing to participate in the safety of their community, Russell said. Common sense things, such as encouraging people to know their neighbors and designating officers to participate in Neighborhood Advisory Councils, when strategically tied together, Russell said, go a long way in building trust with the public.
Dine likes to recall one of his first experiences as a newly minted officer in the 1970s that taught him an important lesson in how to work with people. He was on detail in D.C. providing security at a VIP event and was told to not let anyone in who was not supposed to be there. Trying to distinguish the invited from the uninvited led to some unpleasant encounters, and he realized everyone should be treated with dignity and respect.
“The essence of the job is to treat everyone like a prince. Historically, those treated the worst need us the most,” Dine said. “... I tell every rookie, everyone you see you’re going to see them again. You need to treat them right for the right reasons.”
Diana Halleman, president of NAC No. 5 in west Frederick, said the chief attends most of the 11 annual NAC meetings. Officers assigned to one of the city’s 12 Neighborhood Advisory Councils will come to meetings when they are off duty, something residents respect and applaud.
“They come on their own time because they are involved and want to stay involved. That kind of commitment bleeds down from the top,” she said. “Every time I hear something about the city budget, or a question about him [Dine] leaving, I go into a panic. I want to make sure he knows he’s wanted. Hiring him was one of the smartest things Jennifer [former mayor Dougherty] did.”
Right Choice at the Right Time
When Dine came on board on July 15, 2002, he replaced acting chief Harold Domer, a captain with a long and stellar record with the department, and one of the final three candidates for the job of chief. He was doing a good job, said Dougherty, and he interviewed well. But the city needed a new direction with a new face at the helm.
“There was a lot of pressure to hire within, but it was important to turn the page,” Dougherty said. “Frederick had changed and we needed someone with vision who could create a modern police force.”
Domer had replaced Chief Ray Raffensberger, who left in a cloud of controversy. Allegations of a coverup of the “black book” — the case of a local prostitution ring — to protect politicians and movers and shakers, resulted in allegations of police retaliation on the woman who led the charge, Charlene Edmonds. Edmonds was head of the NAACP at the time.
“Obviously the department had a black eye — the way the NAACP had been handled, the black book — the whole agency and the city needed to prove itself and improve its image,” Dougherty said.
She conducted surveys and staged public meetings to find out what characteristics residents wanted in a police chief. Interview panels that included then-alderman Joe Baldi (R) vetted 63 candidates and recommended three, including Domer and Dine. Baldi, who had served in the previous administration, said he was tainted by the controversy surrounding the police and former mayor Jim Grimes (R).
“There was an undercurrent of hostility of the police with the black population,” Baldi said. “There were people who wouldn’t talk to me when I was serving under the Jim Grimes regime but they did under Jennifer Dougherty.”
Dine, he said, was the “right choice at the right time because we needed to make a change and hire someone who had a lot of experience with a diversified group of people.”
As chief, Dine signed a memorandum of understanding with the NAACP to create a solid relationship with the organization and rebuild trust. He has reached out to various advocacy groups, sought their counsel and been responsive to their needs.
Criticisms and Accolades
The Rev. William H. Graham of the First Missionary Baptist Church has been a volunteer chaplain for the police department since before Dine’s time. Now he is the coordinator of four volunteer chaplains who help police with death notifications, and provide counseling and assistance. He appreciates the chief’s sense of humor and his accessibility, he said.
“The chief doesn’t live in an ivory tower. He goes into all areas of the city, and he goes alone. He doesn’t need a cadre of officers around him and that means he is accepted in all areas of the city,” Graham said.
The chief’s open door policy is refreshing, he said, a characteristic of his tenure that many appreciate. Halleman, active in the neighborhood councils since Dougherty implemented them in 2001, said she grew up with a wariness of police officers.
“I never come acrosss someone in authority who is that easy to deal with,” she said.
When Russell was vetting Dine during the hiring process in 2002, she talked to Dine’s former lieutenant Jacob Kishter, now a deputy chief with the Metropolitan Police Department. She wanted to get a feel for what Dine was like.
“ I remember he said, ‘Not only are you getting the best chief of police, he is an outstanding human being and you will love him,” Russell said. “And it’s turned out to be true. He’s a very big man, with a very big heart.”
Dine has received criticism from some for being too slow to make decisions. He approaches problem solving the way he drives: methodically and deliberately. But retired Chase said he learned a lot from the way Dine handles himself, and that his logical analysis of situations results in better decision making.
The chief also has come under fire from some for his approach to illegal immigrants, cementing for some his role as an “outsider.”
Holtzinger said although he admires the chief, he has some ideological differences. He denies that he ever wanted to get rid of the chief, and said it never would have happened because of the support he had from the aldermen. But he would prefer the chief more “fully embrace” the 287(g) program brought to the county by Sheriff Chuck Jenkins in 2007. The controversial program is a partnership with federal authorities to detain and deport illegal immigrants.
“In urban policing, immigration status is not a top priority,” Dine said. “We arrest people who break the law, that’s what we do.”
Mayor Randy McClement (R) sees the chief as a “very good communicator” with “a deep-seated care for our city.”
“That is greatly appreciated, as it would be for any city employee,” McClement said.
The chief is uncomfortable with accolades, but thrives on interacting with the community. “Humbled” is how he describes his experience in Frederick.
“The last 10 years certainly has been incredibly rewarding and extremely humbling for me. I am very fortunate to work with an outstanding group of women and men, both civilian and sworn, who have accomplished so much and who have been incredibly supportive,” he said. “Their creativity, dedication, sense of humanity, and hard work are all what makes this agency great. Through their work they have illustrated that building bridges and crime fighting go together and that arresting law breakers and community policing are not mutually exclusive.”