Chicago Mayor Picks Ex-Dallas Chief as New Top Cop

David Brown briefs the media about a shooting at Dallas Police headquarters in June 2015. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)

CHICAGO (CN) — Chicago has a new top cop, with Mayor Lori Lightfoot announcing Thursday evening that she has chosen former Dallas Police Chief David Brown to lead the Windy City’s force.

Brown, a Dallas native, became an officer of its police department in 1983, eventually leading it for six years.

During his time at the helm, violent crime in the city hit a 50-year low and Brown implemented new de-escalation techniques, added mental health services for officers, increased diversity in the department and even published officer-involved shooting and use-of-force data.

Brown also oversaw the Dallas Police Department during the mass shooting of two civilians and 11 police officers, killing five, during a 2016 protest.

Lightfoot said Thursday that Brown “exhibited extraordinary leadership” during the Dallas crisis.

“I declare right here, right now that I’m totally committed to his success,” she added. “Because his success means the department’s success.”

Lightfoot said she thought Brown could “make the CPD the finest in the nation.”

The mayor emphasized Brown’s work towards accountability and reform within the Dallas Police Department, something CPD admittedly needs help with.  

“He believes in professional development and building trust,” Lightfoot said. “He lets people know he cares so that they will care what he knows.”

Retired Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck has been filling the shoes of former Superintendent Eddie Johnson since December after the 31-year CPD veteran was fired by Lightfoot just weeks before he was set to retire.

Lightfoot said Johnson, who headed the department for three years following former Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s firing of Garry McCarthy, misled her about an incident last October in which he was found slumped over in his car.

Johnson told the mayor he had a reaction to his blood pressure medication, but it was later revealed he had been drinking.

The former chief took over CPD during a tumultuous time, after the fallout of the fatal shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald and an eventual consent decree with the federal government mandating the department turn around decades of misconduct and erosion of the public’s trust.

Under Johnson’s watch, the city’s murder rate fell 31% and the department began working towards more community involvement and officer training.

However, Lightfoot said his lies about the incident in his car were “intolerable for any leader in a position of trust, especially the Chicago Police Department.”

The Chicago Police Board nominated three potential candidates to replace Johnson on Wednesday after reviewing 25 applications for the job.

Lightfoot chose Brown over Kristen Ziman, police chief of suburban Aurora, Illinois, and Ernest Cato III, a deputy chief of patrol within CPD.

Ziman, an officer since 1994, was appointed as Aurora’s police chief in 2016 and oversaw the department during a mass shooting at a manufacturing plant there.

Cato joined CPD in 1990 and is credited with a strong decrease in shootings in one of the city’s violent west side districts as commander.

“At no time in its history has the Chicago Police Department faced greater challenges, and finding the best possible leader is of the utmost importance,” Police Board President Ghian Foreman said of the nominees. “And this was true before the COVID-19 outbreak.”

“This is one that all of us can be proud of,” Foreman said of Brown, telling him at Thursday’s announcement that he “absolutely fit the bill.”

The CPD did not have its own statement regarding the mayor’s choice on Thursday, and the Fraternal Order of Police did not immediately respond to a request.

Brown, who was with the mayor and Foreman at the announcement, said, “I am deeply honored and humbled to be standing here today.”

“The call to service and to rise is one that is heard across the nation,” he said. “It is that call that has driven everything in my career.”

“All of us are at our best when we serve others…and I’m incredibly proud to be able to serve the city of Chicago,” Brown went on. “David O. Brown reporting to duty. I’m at your service.”

Brown will join Beck – the interim superintendent who caused the mayor to choke up while thanking him – in meeting with officers, aldermen and community leaders until his appointment can be formally introduced to the city council.

The two will also focus on helping the city through the current public health crisis.

Lightfoot announced earlier on Thursday that the first CPD officer had died due to complications from Covid-19 and at least 60 others in the department tested positive for the virus.

Confirmed infections in Illinois reached 7,695 Thursday, with 157 deaths.

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