CHICAGO — Chicago’s new police superintendent has been on the job for a month.
In one of his first in-depth interviews, David Brown talks about being an officer in the COVID-era and how he will measure success in the ongoing battle against violence.
Brown is a rookie when it comes to Chicago but is no stranger to law enforcement, having spent decades with the Dallas Police department, leaving as chief.
His challenge now is to run a department during a pandemic.
“I am concerned with it but we took an oath to protect lives,” he said. “In today’s environment that means from the virus. It also means from shootings and robberies.”
Brown takes over as murders are up 12 percent this year compared with last. Shooting incidents are 20 percent.
A guiding principle for Brown is making officers more visible in the communities they serve.
“We don’t see the police enough,” he said. “Likely more people will be front-facing in the department. I like cops in uniform, in marked cars and there’s no secret they’re police. I’m less inclined to see specialized officers, in plainclothes, in unmarked cars or leased cars.”
On the hot button issue of shifting officers from relatively safe communities to ones plagued by crime, Brown said it’s not a long term solution.
“Taking from one area to give to another, I don’t like that,” he said. “We may have short term violence spikes to address but long-term, we don’t want to do that.”
Brown describes himself as a “Southern gentleman” who wants his officers to show the community more respect.
He insists that will build trust in the wake of incidents like the Laquan McDonald shooting.
“Everyone deserves a measure of respect regardless of their criminality, their socio-economics or demographics,” he said.
Chicago’s new superintendent comes to the job with a unique life experience.
Five of his officers were killed in an ambush in 2016. Six years earlier, his adult son, who reportedly suffered bi-polar disorder, shot and killed an officer and a civilian outside of Dallas. There was a shoot-out and David Brown, Jr was killed.
“I’m a different person than I was before my personal tragedy,” he said. “Along with my professional tragedy having buried five officers in 2016. So I have this in my DNA, this deep empathy for people who have gone through tragedy both in the community and in the policing profession. It’s equal. I don’t make distinctions, nor do I need to make a choice, one or the other.”
When asked what he thinks success will look like at the end of his run as superintendent Brown said if there are historic lows in violent crimes and more trust is established with the community, his mission will be accomplished.