Fair or unfair, it's the question on everyone's mind can Chief David Brown continue to lead the Dallas Police Department?

Viewed one way, the obvious answer is, yes.

Brown cannot fairly be penalized for his adult son's drug-induced murder of two men including a Lancaster police officer on Father's Day. And most people agree the grieving chief should not be held accountable for the inflammatory decision made by his senior commanders to provide an honor burial-type escort for part of his son's funeral procession.

vBut in the polemic and highly politicized world of a big-city police chief, obvious answers can be elusive.

Most of us, on careful reflection, would come to the conclusion that it really wasn't the chief's fault this happened, said Phillip Lyons, a criminal justice professor at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville. But whether there is adequate public support for him, and support within the Dallas Police Department, I don't know.

Current and former senior-level police commanders, and high-placed officials within the local police unions, worry that Brown lacks the personality and political savvy to win back the troops. They say his testy manner with officers and taciturn approach to publicity could render him ineffective.

None of them are willing to criticize Brown publicly.

It's going to be very difficult for him to survive with all the things that have gone on, said one well-connected active-duty officer. I really don't know what we can do to help him out because he's so private that nobody knows what his inner thinking is. I can't tell you what he's thinking because he doesn't associate with a lot of people.

The chief's supporters including his boss, City Manager Mary Suhm said Brown's character and internal fortitude will carry him through.

I think he's capable of doing it, said Suhm. I wouldn't hire somebody to be police chief if I didn't think he could handle the tough times. His job is not easy, but you still have to carry out your responsibilities.

First Assistant City Manager Ryan Evans, who oversees the police and fire departments, said the city will provide Brown any support he needs, but: The reality is he's going to have to capture the strength that he needs to do this. He will have to muster that, and we're here to help him out.

John Hancock, who supervised Brown when they worked SWAT together in the 1990s, said he's confident his friend can change.

It's going to be important for him when he comes back to work to sit down with them again face to face and address their concerns, Hancock said. If nothing else, that's just part of the territory that came with the job. I think he will. I think he realizes he needs to do that.

Hancock, 63, said he, like Brown, is a private person. But he opened up over time and figures the chief will also adapt to his new job and circumstances.

I think David is probably getting to a point in his life and especially considering the things that have happened to him he realizes that, you know, it may be time to open up, Hancock said. Or if nothing else, 'I have to open up, I have no choice' in light of the things that happen in life, the position he is in now. It will be very uncomfortable for him initially, but I think he will.

Bill Rathburn, Dallas police chief in the early 1990s, does not know Brown, but he said the job will mold you.

He said Brown's circumstances the death of a son who carried his name may engender some sympathy within the department and thaw the chief's icy exterior.

From what I've read, perhaps the one thing he may lack, if anything, is compassion, said Rathburn. If there's anything that might give him that quality, this might well be it. And so he could end up being a far more effective chief than he would have been before, just because of what he's experienced.

Brown will almost immediately be tested.

After he returns to work as early as next week, officers will expect clear and contrite answers about why motorcycle officers were dispatched to escort his son's funeral procession. Union officials have said the chiefs who issued the order should resign a delicate situation for Brown because First Assistant Chief Charlie Cato and Deputy Chief Julian Bernal are key figures in his administration.

Cato was tapped as No. 2 in part as a tonic for Brown's aloofness. Until this week, he was one of the most popular top chiefs.

And each day, the hurdles Brown faces seem to grow: Erroneous media reports said motorcycle officers were pulled away from escorting Lancaster police Officer Craig Shaw's body from a funeral home to the church to provide the escort for David Brown Jr.'s procession. This fueled the rank-and-file's anger.

Officers also continue to seethe over the absence of any senior police commander at the funeral of police retiree Larry Mac Adamson, a 35-year veteran whose funeral was the same day as Brown's son's. It is customary for a department chief to present a flag to the family of officers at police funerals.

John Cook may be one of the only people in the country who can identify with Brown's challenges, and his pain.

Cook was an FBI agent in Georgia when his 20-year-old son confessed to him in December 1996 that he had killed two university students parked near a lake north of Macon one night a year earlier.

Cook turned his son in to authorities and ultimately provided key testimony that helped send his son to death row, where he is awaiting execution.

Two months before the trial, Cook decided to leave the FBI, a few months shy of his 30-year anniversary with the bureau.

What I didn't want to happen was for the headlines to say 'FBI agent's son,' said Cook, 68. But they did anyway.

He remained in law enforcement, eventually taking a job as an investigator with the district attorney's office in Macon.

It was just something I felt was the right thing to continue doing, he said. I didn't know where else to go.

He said Chief Brown's situation has some significant differences.

The added problem that he has is that his son shot another law enforcement officer, Cook said. That obviously is what complicates his decision-making process about whether to return to work.

Cook said the experience made him a better investigator.

I have a lot more empathy for some of the family members of the suspects, he said. Sometimes, I even relate my situation to them. I tell them that, 'You can be a good parent and things go wrong that you don't have any control over.'

Cook said he hopes Brown goes back to work and that he doesn't get hurt, or get hard.

Time is the only thing that will heal the pain.

Like it or not, Cook said, life goes on.

Staff writer Scott Goldstein contributed to this report.

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