Friday, 23 Feb 2024

Chicago Police Superintendent Steps Down After Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Defeat

CHICAGO — David O. Brown, the embattled superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, announced his resignation on Wednesday, on the heels of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s defeat in a mayoral race that was dominated by voter concerns about public safety.

Superintendent Brown’s resignation will take effect on March 16.

After Ms. Lightfoot lost her bid for a second term in office on Tuesday, the swift departure of her handpicked police superintendent was all but assured. Both of the mayoral candidates who advanced to an April 4 runoff, Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson, had said that they intended to fire Mr. Brown, if elected.

In a statement, Mr. Brown said that he had accepted a job as chief operating officer of a personal injury law firm in Texas.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to work alongside the brave men and women of the Chicago Police Department,” he said. “I will continue to pray that all officers return home to their families safe at the end of their shift. May the good Lord bless the city of Chicago and the men and women who serve and protect this great city.”

Ms. Lightfoot praised the superintendent for his department’s work in recovering illegal guns and reducing violent crime and for recruiting 950 new hires to the department in 2022. Eric Carter, the first deputy superintendent, will serve as interim superintendent until a new mayor is sworn into office in May, Ms. Lightfoot said.

Superintendent Brown, a former chief of the Dallas Police Department, was hired by Ms. Lightfoot to lead Chicago’s force in April 2020. At the time, he was hailed as a reformer who had increased transparency and diversity in the department and instituted de-escalation training for officers.

He gained national prominence for leading the Dallas department during a tragedy that shocked the country: In 2016, a Black man, intent on killing white officers, fatally shot five police officers in downtown Dallas while the country was reeling from the deaths of two Black men at the hands of the police in Louisiana and Minnesota.

Asked about how to bridge the gap between the two brotherhoods — Black and blue — he belongs to, Superintendent Brown said at a news conference at the time, “I’ve been Black a long time, so it’s not much of a bridge for me.”

When Mr. Brown arrived in Chicago, the coronavirus pandemic had just begun, and a crime wave that would sweep across the nation took hold in the city.

But he soon faced scathing criticism for his handling of protests, looting and civil unrest in Chicago during the summer of 2020, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis.

Joseph Ferguson, then the city’s inspector general, issued a report in 2021 detailing failures in Superintendent Brown’s response and faulting city officials for “poor coordination, inconsistency and confusion” that left the police “outflanked, underequipped and unprepared to respond to the scale of the protests and unrest with which they were met in the downtown area and across Chicago’s neighborhoods.”

Under Superintendent Brown, homicides in Chicago soared to generational highs. He also endured complaints from rank-and-file officers, who frequently said they were exhausted and struggling with understaffing, and the pace of retirements accelerated in the last several years.

The Rev. Ira Acree, a pastor in a neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago that has been hit hard by gun violence, said that he saw Mr. Brown as a competent police official.

“I do, however, think that he was overmatched,” he said, noting that Mr. Brown had begun his job just as the pandemic and the national crime surge hit. “He did not have the degree of familiarity that is needed to inspire a police department that already had low morale.”

Ms. Lightfoot said during her campaign that she intended to keep Superintendent Brown in place if she were re-elected, but there were signs that he was leaving, whether the mayor was re-elected or not: The Chicago Sun-Times reported last month that Mr. Brown would have reached the department’s mandatory retirement age of 63 in October.

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