This week we take the first of what will be many looks at soon to be former Chicago Police Department Superintendent David Brown and his time in Chicago.
Unfortunately for Chicago despite the Mayor’s glowing endorsement and hiring of Brown the reality is that the Lightfoot administration was engaged in a conspiracy with Brown to hide his misconduct while a member of the Dallas Police Department. Their lack of transparency and integrity about this issue was emblematic of Brown’s time with the CPD. Brown is skilled at co-opting the language of reformers and accountability advocates for his own ends. He probably said the words of transparency & accountability more than any former superintendent but in reality nothing changed on the ground.
Brown came in to the CPD while the department was in the early stages of a federal consent decree that mandates specific reforms. He also took over the department immediately after the Mayor herself brought in former Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck to kick-start transforming the CPD in to a 21st century police department. Instead of continuing the reforms Beck had implemented Brown reversed them. The Mayor voiced support for Brown’s reversals despite making reforming the CPD a key part of her campaign.
No evaluation of Brown or Lighfoot’s time in power in Chicago can be done absent the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the murder of George Floyd. Both played a major part in shaping the circumstances of their time in power. Unfortunately for both of them Brown completely misread the intelligence regarding the protests sweeping the country in response to Floyd’s murder. This was the same intelligence both the Cook County Sheriff and Illinois State Police read and knew protests were coming to Chicago. The pandemic alone may have doomed them but the failure of the CPD to have a professional response to the protests was probably the nail in the coffin for both Brown & Lightfoot.
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