City Council poised to approve David Brown as Chicago’s $260,044-a-year police superintendent

City Council poised to approve David Brown as Chicago’s $260,044-a-year police superintendent

Former Dallas Police Chief David Brown being introduced by Mayor Lori Lightfoot earlier this month as her choice to take over the top job at the Chicago Police Department. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Former Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, who considers Brown a friend, advised the new superintendent to speak his mind, put “the right people in the right seats on the bus” and, above all, steer clear of Chicago politics.

It’s not easy getting to know Chicago, its neighborhoods and its people during a pandemic that forces you to maintain social distance. But retired Dallas Police chief David Brown will have to continue to find a way to do just that.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s choice to replace fired Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson is certain to sail through the City Council Wednesday at a virtual meeting — its first to conduct substantive city business.

Brown, 59, has talked a lot about his ability to “walk and chew gum at the same time” in the three weeks since Lightfoot introduced him to Chicago. He’ll need those multi-tasking skills and more to succeed in the $260,044-a-year job.

He inherits a Chicago Police Department on the front lines of the city’s war against the coronavirus; CPD already has lost three of its members, with hundreds more testing positive for the virus.

Even with the stay-at-home order, homicides are up 14% over last year and shootings are up 25%. Summer is fast approaching, when violence traditionally spikes. Brown needs to finalize a plan to prevent that.

He also needs to boost morale among officers who have waited nearly three years for a new contract, rebuild trust between citizens and police shattered by the police shooting of Laquan McDonald and speed compliance with a consent decree outlining the terms of federal court oversight over the Chicago Police Department.

Former CPD superintendent-turned-mayoral-challenger Garry McCarthy believes that his friend, David Brown, is up to the task.

Garry McCarthy.Sun-Times file
Former Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy ran for mayor in 2019.

McCarthy called Brown a “tell-it-like-it-is person” who is “not afraid to say things people are afraid to say in public.”

Brown is “not a kid,” McCarthy said. “He’s been through the ringer” both personally and professionally.

McCarthy’s advice?

“Be yourself. Do the job you need to do. And, above all, steer clear of Chicago politics,” he said.

“That’s what’s wrong with Chicago. David’s gonna come up against that. I love to tell the story that when I first got here, aldermen would call me up and tell me who they thought their district commander should be. And I told them, ‘When you’re accountable for their performance, then you can pick who that person is,’” McCarthy said Wednesday.

“What we do here fails … Lori knows it. As a matter of fact, when I talk to Lori, which I do on a regular basis, she says, `Garry, it keeps coming back to me over and over again. We’ve got to go legit.’ That’s what she did with Eddie Johnson. You can’t hold police officers accountable for lying and not hold the police chief accountable for the same thing.”

McCarthy considers himself a victim of Chicago politics.

He was fired by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the furor following the court-ordered release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video. At the time, Emanuel accused his only police chief of becoming a “distraction.”

Emanuel then rejected the three finalists recommended by the Lightfoot-led Police Board and convinced the Council to change the law and skip a second nationwide search so he could appoint Johnson, who hadn’t even applied for the superintendent’s job.

“That is the ultimate example of what’s wrong with Chicago politics,” McCarthy said.

To succeed where other outsiders have failed, Brown must be “apolitical,” he said.

“Put the right people in the right seats on the bus and give them the authority and accountability to do what they need to do. Every police department in the country that has followed this model has succeeded in reducing complaints against officers and crime at the same time.”

During his lengthy virtual confirmation hearing, Brown promised to make the consent decree a “minimal standard” he hopes to rise above.

He vowed to be “relentless” in working to reduce homicides and shootings, rebuild trust between citizens and police with programs “customized” to individual neighborhoods and be “deliberate about professional development” and an expanded cadet program to create a deep bench of police leaders who will apply for future police superintendent searches.

He also promised to be the “cooler head” in the stalemate between Lightfoot and the Fraternal order of Police, but said he has no desire to be Chicago’s “51st alderman” — meaning, he’s staying out of the political stalemate that has stalled civilian police review.

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