CPD leaders say they’ve lost faith in Supt. Brown: ‘I can’t think of one member of the command staff that is willing to back him’

“The department has been in a constant state of reorganization since Brown arrived, which is evidence that he has no strategy and doesn’t know what he’s doing,” one police supervisor said.

SHARE CPD leaders say they’ve lost faith in Supt. Brown: ‘I can’t think of one member of the command staff that is willing to back him’
Chicago Police Supt. David Brown answers reporters’ questions during a news conference at CPD headquarters on the South Side, Thursday afternoon, April 22, 2021.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

UPDATE: Lightfoot strongly backs top cop David Brown despite police supervisors’ lack of confidence in his leadership

Following a brutal year of violence and a not-so-veiled threat to demote his top brass, Chicago Police Supt. David Brown now faces a crisis of confidence among his command staff, sources said.

Four police supervisors all raised concerns in interviews with the Chicago Sun-Times that Brown isn’t fit to serve as the city’s top cop during a particularly tumultuous period for the police department. They all commented on the condition of anonymity so they could speak freely.

“His strategies and his efforts [and] the threatening of command staff shows a lack of leadership,” one source said. “I can’t think of one member of the command staff that is willing to back him.”

Brown was handpicked by Mayor Lori Lightfoot and confirmed by the City Council in April 2020, three months after the first case of COVID-19 was detected in Chicago and just over a month before riots broke out across the city following the police killing of George Floyd. Throughout his tenure, violent crime has continued to surge. Chicago last year saw the most homicides in a quarter-century, 836 by the Cook County medical examiner’s count.

As the department sought to recalibrate during a closed-door meeting on Jan. 4, Brown and Lightfoot effectively threatened to demote members of the police command staff if they couldn’t produce more arrests and community outreach, warning that underperforming tactical officers could be moved to patrol streets and answer 911 calls.

Within days, district commanders were told that 60% of their tactical officers were being moved to beat cars without a clear explanation, sources said. When Brown later blamed the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases during a meeting, police sources continued to question his motive for the move, which prompted members of the tactical unit for the Grand Central District to quit that team en masse.

One police source recalled speaking to nine other high-ranking police officials amid concerns that cutting tactical units — which are responsible for proactive policing, including responding to gunfire and gang disturbances and conducting surveillance — could result in more crime and violence.

“We all agreed Brown was driving CPD into the ground. Zero confidence in his ability to lead the department,” said the source, who predicted there could be more than 1,000 citywide homicides this year if Brown stays in power.

A police spokesman declined Tuesday to comment on the supervisors’ remarks. But Brown said at the news conference with Lightfoot earlier this month that he remains focused on the building community trust and reforming the department.

“We are striving for a safer Chicago and a more transparent Chicago Police Department, a transformed department with a changed culture,” he said.

Managing a depleted police force struggling from low morale, Brown had focused on building specialized citywide units, plucking officers from district assignments and shirking the community-based strategy of his predecessor Charlie Beck.

Brown perhaps most notably created the Community Safety Team, whose mission was to both fight crime and have positive interactions with people in communities with high rates of violence. But in November, he gutted the unit, which once had about 875 officers and now has fewer than 240, according to data kept by the city’s inspector general.

One source said shifting officers has been part of the problem.

“The department has been in a constant state of reorganization since Brown arrived, which is evidence that he has no strategy and doesn’t know what he’s doing,” the source said.

Brown detailed plans earlier this month to assign more than 200 more cops to the detective division. In addition, he said he wants officers this year to make 1.5 million positive community interactions to bolster trust — a three-fold increase from last year.

An internal police document obtained by the Sun-Times shows each district has a specific goal to meet, with a total amounting to 1 million interactions. The department’s other bureaus are expected to handle the other 500,000 interactions, one source said.

The source raised alarms that increasing the number of positive community interactions could devolve into “a new version of stop-and-frisk,” a concern echoed by the ACLU of Illinois.

“Numeric quotas tend to be the kinds of things that as a general proposition lead to racial profiling and an inordinate number of stops for one group of people,” ACLU spokesman Ed Yohnka warned.

The criticism comes after Lt. Franklin Paz filed a whistleblower lawsuit last January alleging that his commander on the Community Safety Team demanded certain numbers as it related to police activity.

Meanwhile, sources said Brown has repeatedly compared this year’s police activity to 2019, when there were significantly more arrests than the past two years. One police source said it’s reasonable to conclude that a sort of shadow quota system has been put in place as part of the superintendent’s goals of increasing arrests and community interactions and getting more activity out of tactical officers.

“If numbers matter, then there’s a quota in place,” the source said of the department’s recent efforts.

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