Newly appointed Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said Friday he has three priorities: boost morale among officers on the front lines of the war against the coronavirus; a strong plan to combat the traditional summer surge of violence; and complying with a federal consent decree.
“Any good leader worth his or her salt needs to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. So, there’s multiple first issues: 1A, 1B, 1C,” Brown told reporters at police headquarters Friday.
“Number one is conveying to the men and women of the Chicago Police Department that I care about them. I have this saying that, ‘People don’t care what you know. They know that you care, sincerely care, about, right now, the virus’s impact on them and their lives and their families’ lives.”
Second is the plan Mayor Lori Lightfoot and interim Supt. Charlie Beck have worked to craft since January to keep Chicago safe this summer and prevent the number of homicides and shootings from spiking, as they typically do, along with the temperatures.
“Summer is upon us. We have to have strong plans that build on what Superintendent Beck had put in place — the restructuring and the plans already in place. We have to expand on those plans to make sure Chicagoans are safe during the summer,” Brown said.
The third priority is to comply with the consent decree outlining the terms of federal court oversight of the Chicago Police Department. In preparing to take the reins in Chicago, Brown said he read all 800 pages of that decree.
“Building up the template so that Chicago is seen as the best police department in the country without question,” he said.
While serving as police board president, Mayor Lori Lightfoot co-chaired the Task Force on Police Accountability created by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the furor after the court-ordered release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video.
The task force’s scathing indictment of CPD laid the groundwork for the U.S. Justice Department to do the same; that set the stage for the consent decree that has been in place for months.
Last fall, a federal monitor reported CPD had missed 37 of 50 deadlines to implement specific reforms. At the time, Beck said he had “never seen a city get high marks” on its first report card after a consent decree, including his hometown of Los Angeles, which made a successful exit from federal court oversight.
It “takes a while to set up the systems and processes by which the consent decree has to be met,” Beck said then. “The pace of success will rapidly increase once those things are in place. ... I know that CPD can do better. And we will.”
Brown outlined his priorities after joining Lightfoot and Beck at police headquarters to thank the businesses and individuals whose outpouring of generosity has helped first-responders and health care workers during this pandemic. They’ve provided hot restaurant meals, Girl Scout cookies, protective masks, sanitizing wipes and other cleaning materials to warm their hearts and minimize risk.
The outpouring just blew away Chicago’s new police superintendent.
“I’ve been to Chicago many times in my life. Nearly every year, I’ve brought my wife and kids here to shop on Michigan Avenue, enjoy some of the beaches and eat some of the city’s notorious hot dogs. But over these past few days, I’ve seen a side of Chicago like never before,” Brown said.
In introducing Brown as her choice, Lightfoot pointed to his ability to rise above poverty along with personal and professional tragedies that may have crushed a lesser man. She said people show their true character during a crisis.
“That same can be said of a city. What I’ve seen from this city is one that is filled from end to end with generosity, compassion and a true spirit of resiliency,” Brown said Friday.
“If I wasn’t already proud of the opportunity to serve this city before, I am truly overwhelmed today. In just a matter of hours, my feelings have multiplied 10 times over.”