Retired Dallas Police chief David Brown breezed through his virtual confirmation hearing Monday, but not before being asked to justify his extraordinary decision to send in an explosive-bearing, remote-controlled robot to blow up the man who gunned down five Dallas police officers in 2016.
The questioner was Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus.
He demanded to know why Brown believed execution-by-robot was the best possible choice, when the gunman no longer posed an “immediate threat” and Brown could have chosen a less lethal option.
Brown started by correcting Ervin.
Although the gunman was “cornered” on the second floor of a community college in downtown Dallas, at no time did he stop shooting, Brown said. In fact, he had an “unlimited supply of weaponry and bullets” and shot and killed the fifth Dallas police officer from that second-floor perch during four hours of negotiations with police.
“There was not a period of time where the person stopped shooting at us — at all. He was an imminent threat to our residents and to our officers throughout the whole ordeal,” Brown said.
“We looked at several options. All of the options involved more officers being seriously injured or killed — except for weaponizing the bomb robot. Given the same circumstances, I would make the same decision to save more lives. He not only killed five officers. He seriously wounded nine citizens in our downtown area during that ordeal.”
Brown noted an independent grand jury in Dallas had ruled the execution was justified.
Ervin thanked Brown for “clearing up the facts” surrounding the incident.
“Quite frankly, based on what you just said about those set of circumstances, I 100% agree with the decision that you made at that particular point in time,” Ervin said.
Besides Ervin’s interrogation about the Dallas police ambush, other pointed questions were posed to Brown during the three-and-a-half-hour hearing that ended with an 18-to-0 roll call vote.
Several aldermen tried and failed to get Brown to take sides in the political stalemate stalling the missing link in police reform: civilian police review.
The 11th-hour disagreement between Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration and the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability is over who would have final say on establishing police policy whenever there is a disagreement between the civilian oversight board and the Chicago Police Department.
“I’m not trying to be flippant. But I do not want to be the 51st alderman as it relates to policy. … I want to be supportive of whatever you decide. But I don’t believe it’s my role to tip the scales on what you decide,” Brown said.
Brown was equally artful in dodging the controversy surrounding Interim Superintendent Charlie Beck’s decision to abolish merit promotions used to diversify the overwhelmingly-white supervisory ranks of the Chicago Police Department.
The new superintendent told Public Safety Committee Chairman Chris Taliaferro (29th) he was “speaking to the choir” in claiming some cops are not great at multiple choice exams and promised to “aggressively pursue a replacement for merit” promotions without re-opening the controversy about political influence.
Brown’s humility, candor and self-effacing style was evident throughout the questioning.
Asked to describe his leadership style, he said, “I’m a listening ear. I’m no know-it-all.”
When Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) complained Hispanics had gotten short-shrift in the shake-up Beck engineered before he left, Brown said: “Where we fell short, I plan to correct it. Please hold me accountable. Talk is cheap.”
Brown also promised 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 that has forced rank-and-file officers to wait three years and counting for a new contract and their next pay raise.
Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th) had no questions — only praise — for Brown. His primary concern was figuring out how to get the Dallas native to root for the Bears, not the Cowboys.