DALLAS -- Two months after Dallas Police Chief David Brown won national praise for his handling of the downtown ambush-style attacks on July 7, he's decided to go out on a high note.
Thursday afternoon, in an announcement posted to the department’s blog, Brown announced that he will retire effective on Oct. 22. Brown will have served about six-and-a-half years on the job, the longest tenure of a Dallas police chief in decades.
The 33-year veteran of the department didn't cite a specific reason in his announcement, but there has been open speculation that he may be heading to greener pastures of a job in Washington D.C.
"Officers, your extraordinary service will be forever etched in my heart and will serve as a guidepost for me in the next phase of my life,” the chief said in the statement. “You will always be in my prayers."
In the aftermath of the downtown attacks, Brown made the historic decision to use a bomb robot to kill the suspect in the shooting, Micah Johnson, who was barricaded inside the El Centro College parking garage.
Brown was applauded for his powerful eulogies and for comforting the families of the fallen officers.
In a news conference Thursday afternoon, Mayor Mike Rawlings spoke glowingly of Brown’s tenure, and called it a “bittersweet day.” He said the whole world learned what a great man Brown was amid his handling of the July 7 attacks that claimed the lives of four Dallas police officer and a DART officer.
“David Brown is a straightforward man,” Rawlings said. “He's a man of integrity and of courage. He is a man that believes in the simple proposition of doing what is right and treating everyone with respect.”
The mayor cited a crime rate that remains at historic lows during Brown’s tenure, even with the spikes in crime over the last year.
“Under his leadership, we have done it the right way, reducing deadly force dramatically [and] issuing body cams to a 1,000 officers,” Rawlings said. “[Brown's] community policing efforts really serve as a national model.”
Rawlings acknowledged the political realities of the job and said that Brown is leaving on his own terms. Rawlings and City Manager A.C. Gonzalez said there had been discussions over the last year about when Brown would retire.
“I think, for the last year, the chief has been trying to figure out the right time,” said Gonzalez, who will also be retiring in a few months.
The mayor said the chief is currently out of town in Austin playing golf. He said Brown told him that he wanted to do more of that in retirement.
“He told me he wants to sit back and do nothing,” Rawlings said.
Brown’s statement said that he would address the media on Sept. 8.
Executive Assistant Chief David Pughes will assume the role of interim police chief. A national search will be conducted for Brown’s replacement.
Brown’s announcement also came as a surprise, given that just in the past week, he had effectively reshaped the upper echelons of the department. Brown promoted two deputy chiefs to assistant chief, one major to deputy chief, and several lieutenants to major. He also promoted an deputy chief to assistant chief a few weeks ago.
The mayor has been a staunch backer of the chief, vocally standing beside him as national, state, and local police associations openly called for a change in leadership.
Then, this past March, there were renewed calls for Brown’s ouster after the chief announced a plan to change the schedules of about 600 officers to put them on an evening shift. Tom Glover, the head of the Dallas Black Police Association, said then that the department was on the verge of “erupting into chaos.”
Brown backed off the plan, but again, the mayor remained firmly behind the chief.
While Brown was generally popular outside the department, he has been a controversial figure internally, with many on the department grumbling about his brusque, top-down management style.
But in responding to the announcement that Brown would retire, police association representatives spoke in relatively glowing terms.
The chief’s departures comes at a time when the police associations are engaged in a heated battle with city management over police and fire pay. Officers have been leaving in droves for other departments that pay significantly more than Dallas.
"We've had our differences, but we commend him for giving and sacrificing for 33 years as a Dallas police officer,” said Ron Pinkston, president of the Dallas Police Association. “That is tremendous to give 33 years to any organization."
Sgt. Sheldon Smith of the Dallas Black Police Association said the retirement announcement caught many in the department by surprise.
“He did an outstanding job after the attacks on July 7, and all the officers acknowledge that,” Smith said. “He led us through a very trying time. [...] We needed leadership during that time. We're a stronger department because of his actions.”
Brown is a Dallas native. He joined the department in 1983 “because of the crack cocaine epidemic’s impact on my neighborhood in Oak Cliff,” he said in his statement.
“I wanted to be part of the solution,” he wrote.
Brown rose to the department’s highest levels during the tenure of former Police Chief David Kunkle. It was Kunkle who promoted Brown first from lieutenant to deputy chief, and then ultimately to second in command. It was during Kunkle’s tenure that crime rates began their downward trajectory, although much of it came as a result of changing how crimes were counted.
Then-City Manager Mary Suhm named Brown chief in 2010, and he assumed command that May.
But just six weeks into the job, Brown weathered one of the biggest storms of his tenure when his son and namesake, David Brown Jr., shot and killed a Lancaster cop and an innocent bystander.
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