New Toledo Police chief vows to build community trustWritten by Tom Konecny | | email@example.com
As many parts of the nation deal with tension between police and citizens, newly sworn-in Toledo Chief of Police George Kral promises to “walk the talk,” and said he is eager to make community engagement and trust his immediate priorities.
Kral, 48, was promoted Jan. 5 by Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins in a ceremony at One Government Center, with Kral’s wife Teresa and two adult sons standing by.
“Wow, this is arguably the most humbling moment of my professional life,” said Kral, who received a standing ovation inside a packed City Council chamber.
Kral is the 34th person to serve as chief of Toledo Police Department (TPD)since 1867, although the position has changed hands 40 times via acting chiefs and some who served more than once, according to Sgt. Joe Heffernan, TPD public information officer.
Kral’s promotion does not become official until City Council approves it, and it has one year in which to do so. Both Heffernan and Stacy Weber, city public information officer, expect that to happen sometime this year, as there are several other city directors who need confirmation, and all will likely happen at the same time.
“I’ve been wanting this position for a long time,” Kral said afterward, adding that he hopes to serve in this role for nine to 10 years.
From Beantown to T-Town
The Boston-raised Kral came to Toledo in 1987, joined TPD in 1990 and began steadily working his way through the ranks.
He was promoted to sergeant in 1995, lieutenant in 2006, captain in 2011 and deputy chief one year ago. He received degrees from the University of Toledo, University of Phoenix and Tiffin University.
The son of a World War II Navy veteran, Kral also served in the Navy — 1984-87, plus four more years in the reserves — and it was during his time in San Diego that he met his future wife, Teresa, a Toledo native.
“One of the conditions (of the marriage) was that we move to her hometown,” Kral said.
It was during his service working temporary stints in shore patrol that he realized he liked protecting people. As soon as Toledo offered the civil service test, he jumped at the opportunity. Even then, he knew becoming chief was his mission.
“To be honest, ever since I was in the police academy, I always thought that being the chief would be the ultimate way to pay back the community,” he said.
Collins, who retired from TPD after 27 years, said he first noticed Kral’s character and potential as a fellow officer in the late 1980s when they met during a disciplinary hearing at which both testified.
“I knew he had the tools then,” Collins said.
Knowing former Chief William Moton had been eyeing retirement, Collins wanted a succession plan where Moton could mentor Kral, and that’s exactly what occurred over the past year.
Kral learned a lot during his one-on-one time with Moton, but what was the best advice he received?
“Probably not to try to do it all myself,” Kral said. “Coming up this past year in 2014, [Moton] allowed me to assemble a leadership and management team that is fantastic.”
Deputy Chief James O’Bryant has spent 29 years with TPD. He praised Moton, who spent one year at the helm, for “bringing the gap” between administrations.
“He didn’t come in and tear everything down and create new,” O’Bryant said. “He capitalized on the good things we had been doing, made sure we continued on that track and provided great leadership for that year he was here.”
Sgt. Mike McGee was one of Kral’s first sergeants when Kral worked the North End around 1993, and said Kral is intelligent, well-rounded and adept at police work.
“You want to see somebody from the department take the helm,” McGee said, explaining that current staff intimately know and understand the department’s history and tradition better than someone hired from outside. “We’re family.”
Lt. Todd Miller has only worked with Kral for about a year, but already believes in him.
“He’s got a lot of character,” Miller said. “He wants to do what’s right. What he said when he gave his speech, about promotions are a lot of nepotism, the ‘good old boys’ club, he’s not like that. I think he honestly wants to find the best person for the position and he just wants to do a good job. I believe in him 100 percent. He’s a very truthful person. He’s got a lot of integrity.”
Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp has known Kral for many years and said the city and county will continue to work closely.
“He has vision, which is absolutely necessary to have success,” Tharp said. “He knows that there’s so much information within the ranks and he’ll reach down and gather that information and ask for input from all the officers and staff he has working for him. That’s one of the many reasons he’ll be successful. We’re lucky to have him as a police chief.”
Kral thanked his predecessors for their push for technology, saying Toledo has the “best crime analysis unit in the United States.” He wants to continue employing new technology, using his officers’ expertise more, and empowering the community to create partnerships and foster trust. Kral has already staged meetings with various community groups and plans to schedule more.
“Trust is a key,” Kral said. “If there’s a distrust between the citizens and this department, Toledo will never realize its true potential.”
Kral believes there is a level of trust already there, and offered assurance that he would treat every person with dignity and respect. He knows there will be issues, he said, but promised to share information, and learn from his mistakes.
Having wanted to be chief for a long time, he already has a clear vision of an ideal TPD.
“A department that racially mirrors the city, a low crime rate and a citizen base that is trusting and supportive of its police department,” he said.
During his remarks at the promotion, Collins commented on the strained relations between New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York Police Department, calling the situation “embarrassing” and “unfortunate,” while stating that de Blasio has “never spent one hour in the shoes of a law enforcement officer.”
“Being a police officer today is probably one of the most challenging positions a person can have,” Collins said. “[Officers] have the toughest job in the world. We are the peacemakers.”
Kral was former Toledo Police Chief Mike Navarre’s administrative sergeant when Navarre served as deputy chief, and Navarre said he believes Kral is taking over at the right moment.
“The police chief has to walk a very delicate line because you’ve got very strong feelings on the police side and you’ve got very strong feelings on the community side,” said Navarre, now chief of police in Oregon. “The mayor of New York, in the eyes of the rank and file, has stepped across that line and has taken sides, and that puts the police chief in a horrible position. George recognizes that. You heard that in his remarks [Jan. 5]. I think he put a lot of emphasis on the importance of keeping the community apprised of what is going on.”
Kral acknowledged the difficulties his profession places on family life, and joked to his wife that his promotion would be his last. Though he still loves the seafood Boston offers, Toledo has been his home for a long time.
“Nowadays, law enforcement is law enforcement,” he said. “You just tailor and benchmark the same policies in the city you’re working.”
And if his oath wasn’t enough, Kral offered the mayor one last, simple pledge.
“I’d like to thank the mayor for this opportunity,” Kral said. “I will not let you down.”
Toledo Free Press Editor in Chief Sarah Ottney contributed to this report.