A year to the day after city council unanimously approved his appointment as Chicago Police Commissioner, David Brown said he remained “determined and engaged” in his work despite a turbulent start to his term and speculation about his possible departure.
Brown spent nearly an hour with reporters at the Chicago Police Department headquarters Thursday – which marked a year since Brown officially took office as Police Commissioner – answering questions about the past year and the future, starting with his response to online rumors that he could step down or be shot in the fatal shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo by a Chicago police officer.
“I haven’t dealt with these since junior high, and I don’t plan on doing it now,” Brown said of the “rumors and gossip” surrounding his work.
His comments come a day after Mayor Lori Lightfoot dismissed any speculation that the Police Commissioner might be leaving. She said Brown “is the superintendent of this police department today, tomorrow, in the future” and called the internet chatter that he was considering a return to his native Dallas “unsettling.”
Lightfoot selected Brown from three finalists last spring to replace acting CPD superintendent Charlie Beck, who intervened after Eddie Johnson was sacked in 2019. Prior to his arrival in Chicago, Brown had led the Dallas Police Department from 2010 to 2016.
In his first year, he has already faced a host of challenges – a global pandemic, skyrocketing homicides and violence, and widespread unrest after the murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police, among others.
“When I get complaints about ‘Man you had a rough time in your first year,’ I always remember, because that’s what I tell our officers, it’s life that we chose, ”said Brown. “We signed up for this job and vowed to do it in a way that respects people. So don’t feel sorry for me, this is the life we have chosen.
Thursday’s press conference marked the first time Brown has answered questions from reporters since the release last week of camera footage of the body of an officer showing the fatal shooting in Toledo following a foot pursuit on March 29.
When asked if he felt the shooting was justified, Brown declined to answer, saying it would be premature for him, as the “final decision maker” of the CPD, to “determine my opinion now”, before that an investigation cannot be completed by the Civilian Police Responsibility Office.
This investigation is still ongoing.
The filming, and the subsequent publication of body camera images last week, led to protests and calls from city leaders for the CPD to develop a new policy regarding its foot prosecutions.
Brown said on Thursday his department was moving “as quickly as possible” to prepare a final version of this policy for community comment, a process he said is essential not only for getting the policy right, but also for reform. the culture of CPD throughout the department. .
“As a profession, and not just as a ministry, we must, # 1, embrace this change that is happening across the country in law enforcement. We have to adopt it, ”he said. “A lot of what that means is ‘shut up and listen.’ … This is a more necessary time for a lot of humility, and you cannot listen very well as you speak.
Brown on Thursday repeatedly highlighted the change in the culture of the ministry, particularly through reforms mandated by the federal consent decree – the overhaul of court-imposed CPD policies and reforms that has been in effect for more than two years.
In March, the independent observer overseeing these reforms found that the DPC missed more deadlines than it did in its last reporting period, which lasted from March to December 2020, although the ministry has made progress on other requirements.
Despite repeated public remarks by Lightfoot and the last two police commissioners about the importance of these reforms, Brown said on Thursday that when he took office last year, the CPD “wasn’t really taking the consent decree. very seriously ”.
“I heard throughout my discussions with many members of the department that this was going to go away,” he said.
When Brown took over, he said he needed to help the department get out of a hole when it comes to missed deadlines and reforms, and further improvements have been made even since the last report of the independent observer.
He called the consent decree “a floor, not a ceiling,” and said achieving these goals is only part of the larger picture of police reform.
“If we hit all the deadlines and all the paragraphs, but we couldn’t change the culture, the consent decree would have been in vain,” Brown said. “The ultimate goal is not to tick boxes, it is to comply with the consent decree and change our culture.”
Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson | (773) 509-5431 | [email protected]