CPD Supt. Brown touts successes, pushes back on malcontent command staff

Brown says brass who criticized him are unhappy with his efforts to reform CPD.

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Chicago Police Supt. David Brown speaks during a press conference at the Chicago Police Department headquarters in the Bronzeville neighborhood, Friday afternoon, Jan. 21, 2022.

Chicago Police Supt. David Brown speaks during a press conference at Chicago Police Department headquarters Friday afternoon.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown on Friday touted some recent bright spots for the department, and pushed back on reports that some of his command staff have lost faith in his leadership.

At a lectern flanked with a long row of officers and command staff, Brown announced several arrests of young offenders involved in a string of retail thefts across the city, and told reporters he was unconcerned about a recent Chicago Sun-Times article in which members of his command staff anonymously questioned the direction of the department since Brown took over nearly 18 months ago.

In response to a question from a radio reporter about the purported crisis in confidence among his police supervisors, Brown characterized the statements as hearsay —though each of the high-level officers interviewed by the Sun-Times attended meetings described in the article —and said the malcontent officers were unhappy with his efforts to reform the department.

“It’s likely there are disgruntled people because of the significant changes we’re making. We’re going to change the culture of the Chicago Police Department, and there are likely people who liked it the way things were.”

A Sun-Times reporter interviewed four CPD supervisors with direct knowledge of high-level departmental meetings where Brown discussed plans to move officers out of district-level tactical teams and a closed-door meeting where Brown and Mayor Lori Lightfoot laid out what staff took as a demand to increase the number of arrests and “positive community interactions.”

Brown in a press conference earlier this month set a goal of 1.5 million such interactions, nearly triple the number officers’ logged in 2021, and police sources said more than half the officers assigned to district tactical teams have been moved into patrol.

Officers have complained that the department hasn’t made clear what constitutes a “positive” interaction, and civil rights organizations have expressed worries that the encounters could come to resemble “stop-and-frisk” practices that disproportionately targeted residents of poor and minority communities.

Friday, Brown said that tactical teams had not been disbanded, and said there were no numerical quotas for arrests.

“We haven’t broken up the tact teams. The tact teams have been asked to help answer 911 calls,” Brown said, adding later. “No, we don’t have any quotas. We do want to earn our keep. ... We are going to ask officers to arrest more violent offenders, that’s real, and we are going to ask officers to engage with the public.”

Chicago Police Supt. David Brown, third from left, exits a press conference at the Chicago Police Department headquarters in the Bronzeville neighborhood, Friday afternoon, Jan. 21, 2022.,

Chicago Police Supt. David Brown (third from left) exits a press conference at CPD headquarters Friday afternoon.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Brown was hired as superintendent in April 2020, as COVID infections had just begun to unsettle normal life in Chicago and across the U.S., and as protests broke out across the world in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. In Brown’s first two years, the city notched murder totals not seen since the 1990s, with more than 800 people killed in the city limits in 2021. Most other U.S. cities have seen similar spikes in violence during the pandemic years, though Chicago has had seen by far the most murders.

In response to the rising crime, the department has rolled out revamped community policing and several citywide squads intended to squash violence. Lightfoot has also devoted an unprecedented amount of city spending on outreach programs targeting violent offenders for counseling and jobs programs. The superintendent and mayor both have also cast blame on Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and Chief Judge Timothy Evans, claiming that court policies that have increased the number of people facing charges for violence who are let out of jail on electronic monitoring.

Lightfoot on Thursday issued a full-throated defense of her hand-picked top cop.

“Supt. Brown is trying to change the culture of a police department where the status quo served a lot of people, but frankly didn’t serve the residents of the city in keeping them safe,” Lightfoot in an online press conference while attending the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C.

“So there’s a level of accountability that the exempt members are facing that they don’t like, but that’s too bad.”

Friday, Brown said he appreciated the support and was undeterred by the leaks.

“It’s encouraging that the mayor sees it the same way,” he said. “We’ve got a job to do. We’re going to reform this department. We’re going to change the culture, and we’re going to protect the people of Chicago while we do it.”

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