After more than three decades with the Dallas Police Department, Chief of Police David O. Brown announced his retirement Thursday, ending a six-year tenure leading the nation's seventh-largest municipal police force.
Brown, who focused on community policing and transparency while battling with police unions during his tumultuous tenure as chief, earned nationwide praise in July when he led the city's response to a deadly ambush where five officers were slain.
"After much prayer, I am announcing my retirement from the Dallas Police Department after 33 years as a Dallas police officer," Brown said in a statement on DPDBeat.com. "Serving the citizens of Dallas in this noble profession has been both a true honor and a humbling experience."
In the statement, Brown went on to thank his family as well as mayors, city managers and members of the city council, past and present, for allowing him to serve.
"This is a difficult decision. I pray for your understanding and well wishes," Brown said.
Brown, who did not give a reason for the abrupt retirement, said it will become effective Oct. 22. He said he'll be unavailable until Sept. 8, at which time he'll hold a press conference to discuss his retirement.
Dallas City Manager A.C. Gonzalez credited Brown Thursday for creating a diverse police force that brought some of the lowest crime rates to Dallas since the 1930s and for outfitting 1,000 officers with body cameras while reducing the use of deadly force by a record number.
"The world learned what a superstar David is in the aftermath of one of the most painful tragedies our city has ever experienced - but we’ve known about his strengths for some time," Gonzalez said. "David is a person of high integrity, character and an unrelenting resolve to serve the citizens of Dallas in the most professional manner possible. It’s been a pleasure to work with David. We will miss his leadership."
Brown said he joined the force in 1983 because of the crack cocaine epidemic's impact on his neighborhood in Oak Cliff.
"I wanted to be part of the solution. Since that time I have taken great pride in knowing that we have always been part of the solution and helped to make Dallas the world class city it is today," Brown said.
During his career with the department, Brown lived through the murders of his former police partner, Walter Williams, and his younger brother who was shot and killed by drug dealers.
Months after being sworn in as chief, Brown's son was shot and killed in a shootout with Lancaster police after he killed a 23-year old man and a police officer.
In his six years, Brown has been a fierce supporter of his officers while facing backlash from unions over the city's low pay. While supporting the rank-and-file, he's fought tirelessly to reduce officer-involved shootings and reports of police brutality.
Following the ambush in July that killed five police officers, four from Dallas and one from DART, Brown defended the plan to kill the gunman using an explosive device on a robot, saying it was the only way to protect officers from further harm since the gunman, claimed to have planted bombs around the area and threatened to hurt more people. Brown said that he would make the same decision again.
Brown has historically been quick to credit his officers for 11 straight years of a declining crime rate. When the trend in violent crime was reversed earlier this year, friction developed between Brown and officers on how to staff and combat the issue. Meanwhile, violent crime remains up 10.4 percent year to date, despite an eight-week partnership with state and county officers earlier in 2016 to help round-up suspects. Homicide is up 24.7 percent so far in 2016. Overall crime is up 2.5 percent.
Another recent report shows the Dallas police force is shrinking. The Dallas police authorized force of 3,520 was just 3,375 as of Aug. 9. Officers leaving the force outpaced hiring by 116 so far this year. The number of police civilian employees has also declined, leaving more work for sworn officers.
The tragedy in July resulted in big support for the department and a huge increase in applications to join the force — especially after Brown's call to the community to support the police, join the department and be a force for change. The department hoped to hire 549 officers in 2017 making up for those who leave while also increasing current strength by 200; that plan may now be spread out over three years.
Union leaders were quick to say meeting those hiring numbers would be difficult with the low pay offered by the department.
As chief, Brown commanded a department of more than 4,000 employees with an annual budget of $426 million.
There are 25 deputy chiefs or assistant chiefs in the Dallas Police Department who could be likely candidates to replace Brown. The city will undoubtedly also look outside of the department for his replacement. Meantime, Gonzalez has named Assistant Chief David Pughes as interim Police Chief upon Brown's retirement.
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