City Council Committee Approves David Brown As Chicago Police Superintendent

David Brown
Then Dallas Police Chief David Brown during a 2016 news conference in Dallas. On Monday a Chicago city council committee voted to approve Brown as the next head of the police department. The full city council is expected to vote on the nomination Wednesday. LM Otero / AP
David Brown
Then Dallas Police Chief David Brown during a 2016 news conference in Dallas. On Monday a Chicago city council committee voted to approve Brown as the next head of the police department. The full city council is expected to vote on the nomination Wednesday. LM Otero / AP

City Council Committee Approves David Brown As Chicago Police Superintendent

Chicago’s acting police Superintendent David Brown on Monday laid out his vision for the Chicago Police Department at a virtual hearing of the city council’s public safety committee.

“I want to know this city, and I want the city to get to know me. I want to feel its heartbeat and vibrancy and also its challenges and struggles,” Brown said during the zoom meeting Monday. “I want to experience what it means to be a true Chicagoan. I am committed to making the Chicago Police Department a department Chicagoans deserve and is proud to call its own.”

The public safety committee voted unanimously on Monday to recommend Brown, the former Dallas police chief, to be Chicago’s next police superintendent. Brown still needs to be approved by the full City Council before he can remove the “acting” from his superintendent title. The full council is expected to vote on Brown’s appointment at its meeting on Wednesday.

If he is confirmed by the full council, Brown said his priorities as Chicago’s top cop will include police reform, violence prevention and officer mental health. Brown also repeatedly talked about the court-ordered police reform plan, called a consent decree, that is currently governing the Chicago Police Department.

“If [I’m] confirmed, the Chicago Police Department will utilize the consent decree as a minimal standard for policing excellence, with the goal of an even higher standard of respect for all who live, work and play in this great city,” Brown said. “I will develop strong relationships with residents and police officers with an emphasis on young people and their families.”

During Monday’s hearing, Ald. Harry Osterman asked Brown what steps he would take to reduce gun violence while also repairing relationships with residents on Chicago’s South and West sides.

Brown replied that his solution to both would hinge on more and better community policing. Throughout the hearing Brown went back to the need to establish better relationships between police and residents. In particular Brown said he wanted to do more outreach to young people in high-crime neighborhoods.

Brown called community policing his “wheelhouse,” and he said he believed building community trust would help improve Chicago’s homicide solve rate. In recent years Chicago police have been solving about four of every ten murders in the city

“I think community policing has a connection to building trust, which [aids in] investigating crime, solving crime and reducing crime,” Brown said.

Brown also talked about his desire to work closely with anti-violence groups and street outreach workers to help prevent gang shootings and retaliation.

Brown was pushed repeatedly by alderman on what he would do about the lack of diversity within CPD, particularly in leadership positions. Brown said before he arrived, CPD had “made some strides, but it’s just not good enough if you look at the numbers.” He said he’d address it with a formalized professional development program and targeted outreach aimed at increasing diversity in the higher ranks.

On the issue of officer well-being, Brown said he would focus on eliminating the stigma that prevents officers from seeking help.

“I care about cops, not just the physical, but also the emotional well-being,” Brown said. “While we can’t undo the many horrible and tragic circumstances they experience on a daily basis, we can acknowledge that it’s OK to say ‘I need to talk with someone.’ ”

Monday’s meeting lasted more than three hours. Ald. Andre Vasquez called it a “marathon interview session,” but the tone of the meeting was largely positive and supportive of Brown, with many aldermen thanking Brown for agreeing to take on the challenge of leading CPD.

Ald. Nicholas Sposato said he believes Brown is a “bit of a crazy guy” because he is willing to accept the superintendent role, which Sposato called the “second toughest job” in the city.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Brown as her pick for superintendent at the beginning of April, after a months-long search by the Chicago Police Board. Brown is replacing former Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, who was fired in December after a drinking-and-driving incident.

Brown was the police chief in Dallas from 2010 to 2016, where he spent his entire police career.

“While many people may think of Dallas like the 1980s TV show — J.R. Ewing and cattle ranchers and 10-gallon gallon hats and oil fields — I grew up in a neighborhood that looked more like Chicago’s West and South Sides,” Brown said during Monday’s meeting. “This is where I developed my passion for urban policing and city life. I know the joys of living surrounded by others. I also know the struggles of growing up poor, living and working in a strictly segregated city.”

Patrick Smith is a reporter on WBEZ’s Criminal Justice Desk. Follow him @pksmid. Email him at psmith@wbez.org.