law enforcement

Dallas Police Chief David Brown Leads With Experiences of Loss

The police chief, who took time after the shooting to reach out to victims' families, has great experience with loss, both in his personal life and on the police force

Police Chief David Brown was back at the podium Monday and "running on fumes," he said, three days into his investigation into the nation's deadliest day for law enforcement since the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

While giving his latest update on the case, Brown called his team the best department in the country, urged disaffected young people to "become part of the solution" and appealed for lawmakers to "do your job" by doing "something on guns."

"We're doing ours," Brown said. "We're putting our lives on the line. Other aspects of government need to step up and help us."

It was the latest example of Brown as leader of the Dallas Police Department speaking out in calling for more community support and for the public to take greater action in solving societal problems.

Robert Taylor, a professor of criminology at the University of Texas at Dallas, in assessing Brown's performances, praised him for "starting the healing process" after the attack and bringing the "community together to support the police department."

Brown, a 33-year Dallas police veteran, is known for being fiercely protective of his officers.

"I think saving a life should trump every policy you have," Brown said back in a 2013 interview with NBC DFW. "It should be the most predominant thing. Now you can't be reckless, it's got to be reasonable, but saving lives to me trumps everything."

That was also the calculus on Friday morning in the decision to use a bomb affixed to the end of a robot to kill Micah Xavier Johnson, the Army Reserve veteran who Dallas police identified as the gunman responsible for killing five and wounding nine officers and two civilians.

Brown later explained that using the robot was the only way to get to Johnson, who said he had planted bombs around the area and threatened to hurt more people, without exposing officers to greater danger.

Brown said Monday that he would make the same decision again.

"I would use any tool necessary to save our officers' lives," he said.

Of the nine wounded officers, Brown said Monday that four were Dallas police, three were Dallas Area Rapid Transit officers and two were from the Dallas County Community College police.

"Our profession is hurting. Dallas officers are hurting. We are heartbroken. There are no words to describe the atrocity that occurred to our city," Brown said Friday.

The chief, who took time after the shooting to reach out to victims' families, has great experience with loss, both in his personal life and on the police force.

Long before the Dallas police force faced its devastating attack, Brown lived through the murders of his former police partner and his younger brother.

His former partner, Walter Williams, was shot on assignment in 1988 and later died in the hospital, according to The Dallas Morning News. His brother was killed three years later by drug dealers.

Just a few weeks after being sworn in as police chief, Brown experienced another loss when his oldest son, who shared his name, died in a shootout with police after he killed a 23-year old man and a police officer. His son, who was 27-years-old, had a history of mental illness and was reportedly having a psychotic episode at the time, The Washington Post reported.

“My family has not only lost a son, but a fellow police officer and a private citizen lost their lives at the hands of our son," Brown told The Guardian at the time. "That hurts so deeply I cannot adequately express the sadness I feel inside my heart.”

Brown joined the force with the intention of going to law school and eventually becoming a prosecutor. Instead, Brown left college early seeking to make a difference in his community. He found himself embracing police work and rising through the ranks, becoming police chief in 2010.

"I'm the kind of person that I probably wouldn't protest or complain," Brown said Monday. "I'd get involved and do something about it by becoming part of the solution."

Brown has earned a reputation over the last six years for trying to foster a positive relationship between the city's citizens and the police force, seeking to counter the divisiveness that has grown in other communities across the country. Using community policing efforts to decrease the use of force in citizen encounters with police has been a major goal for Brown.

The police chief has credited these community efforts with plummeting excessive force complaints, making 2015 the 12th consecutive year of crime reduction and bringing the city's overall crime rate to a 50 year low.

The number of Dallas police officer involved shootings has decreased every year since 2012. And according to the department's website, the force has had only one, non-fatal, officer involved incident this year.

There were 990 people killed in police-involved shootings nationwide in 2015, The Washington Post reported.

Still, crime in Dallas has gone up this year and the department has had troubles with officer recruitment and retention, The Atlantic reported

Brown, for his part, said that turnover stemmed from officers having salaries that were too low, and he’s “working to correct that."

"This is the best department in the country," Brown said Monday. "This tragic incident will not discourage us from … changing and reforming policing in America."

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