Mayor taps ex-Dallas chief David Brown to head Chicago police force
Brown retired from the Dallas Police Department in 2016
By Don Babwin
CHICAGO — Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday named former Dallas police Chief David Brown to head the police force in the nation's third-largest city.
Lightfoot introduced Brown as the next superintendent of the Chicago Police Department during a news conference hours after she announced that a member of the force had died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Brown, who was one of two African Americans named as a finalist for the job, has more than 30 years of experience in law enforcement. The 59-year-old Brown, who retired from the Dallas force in 2016, drew widespread attention that year after five of his officers were killed in an ambush-style rifle attack and he directed officers to kill the suspect using a remote-controlled robot fixed with explosives.
Brown was the only of the three finalists with experience leading a large police force. One of the other finalists was Kristen Ziman, the police chief in the Chicago suburb of Aurora. The third was Ernest Cato, a deputy chief on the Chicago police force. Cato, who is also African American, was only recently promoted to deputy chief by Beck. Still, it will be an adjustment from Brown, who comes from a department of about 3,500 officers to one with about 13,000.
Brown's experience made him the logical choice for Lightfoot, but he's also an outsider who is far less familiar than the other two candidates. And he also comes to a police department where the rank-and-file has not always welcomed outsiders. Both Jody Weis, a former FBI special agent, and Garry McCarthy, a former high ranking member of the New York City Police Department, were not popular with the troops.
Brown's selection comes at a tumultuous time for the country and the department. Like other departments, the Chicago police force has see several of its officers test positive for the virus that has ravaged the country and the world.
Brown's selection comes as Beck and Johnson before him scrambled to regain public trust that was shattered in large part by the late-2015 release of a video of a white police officer shooting a black teenager, Laquan McDonald, 16 times the year before. The officer, Jason Van Dyke, was later convicted of murder and sent to prison, but the handling of the shooting by the department and City Hall led to the firing of then-Superintendent Garry McCarthy, a federal probe and a host of reforms.
The department has also faced a period of uncertainty since late last year. In December, just days after Johnson announced his retirement and Lightfoot named Beck as the interim superintendent, the mayor abruptly fired Johnson. Citing what she called “ethical lapses” on Johnson's part, Lightfoot said that Johnson had lied to her about an incident in October in which Johnson was found asleep at the wheel of his vehicle after having drinks.
She said Johnson's explanation was fundamentally different than “what the facts show," with subsequent revelations that Johnson could be seen on surveillance video drinking with a woman who was not his wife at a downtown bar — something Johnson did not tell the mayor.
Beck made it clear from the beginning that he did not want to be the permanent superintendent, and Lightfoot initiated a national search that led to 25 people applying for the job before the police board whittled that number down to three finalists.