Top cop David Brown says CPD’s ma­jor re­or­ga­ni­za­tion un­der former in­terim Supt. Char­lie Beck quickly be­came ‘out­dated’ by COVID, un­rest and ‘un­prece­dented’ vi­o­lence

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - BY SAM CHARLES, STAFF RE­PORTER scharles@sun­ | @samjcharle­s

For Chicago Po­lice Supt. David Brown, the sit­u­a­tion on the ground changed as soon as he ar­rived in town.

On April 2, the day Mayor Lori Light­foot an­nounced she’d se­lected Brown to be the next leader of the de­part­ment, the CPD re­ported the first coro­n­avirus-re­lated death of an of­fi­cer — that of vet­eran un­der­cover cop Marco DiFranco. Two more of­fi­cers have since died of the virus, while more than 700 have tested pos­i­tive.

A global pan­demic, surg­ing gun vi­o­lence and wide­spread civil un­rest quickly re­vealed that the on­go­ing struc­tural re­or­ga­ni­za­tion of the de­part­ment — put into mo­tion by Brown’s pre­de­ces­sor, in­terim Supt. Char­lie Beck — would need chang­ing.

“So the in­terim su­per­in­ten­dent does a ma­jor re­or­ga­ni­za­tion of the de­part­ment, and that’s still not fully im­ple­mented as I start,” Brown said in a ra­dio in­ter­view last week. “I fully im­ple­mented [it] in the first parts of May, and al­most im­me­di­ately I un­der­stand, along with peo­ple in the com­mu­nity, that that’s an out­dated re­or­ga­ni­za­tion be­cause of what’s changed on the ground: the civil un­rest, the push­back against po­lice, COVID-19 and un­prece­dented vi­o­lence. So I have to start plan­ning an­other re­or­ga­ni­za­tion in or­der to deal with what is at hand.” Gone are the days of tem­po­rar­ily mov­ing of­fi­cers to high-crime ar­eas from qui­eter ones. Brown got an early les­son in Chicago pol­i­tics when North­west Side al­der­men com­plained they weren’t told be­fore Brown dis­patched cops from their wards to the West Side.

To stem the tide of shoot­ings and stop the fre­quent re­as­sign­ment of of­fi­cers, the CPD cre­ated two new teams: the Com­mu­nity Safety Team and Crit­i­cal In­ci­dent Re­sponse Team.

“These teams re­flect Su­per­in­ten­dent

Brown’s pri­or­i­ties of mov­ing more of­fi­cers into the com­mu­ni­ties they serve, and are rooted in bal­anc­ing crime-fight­ing with com­mu­nity con­nec­tion,” the de­part­ment said in a state­ment. “Tak­ing a break from past prac­tices, these teams are fo­cused on build­ing trust with res­i­dents to ad­dress their needs head-on, while strate­gi­cally stem­ming vi­o­lence in the most vul­ner­a­ble neigh­bor­hoods.

The Com­mu­nity Safety Team will op­er­ate mostly on the South and West sides, sup­ple­ment­ing ef­forts by dis­trict com­man­ders while also reach­ing out to com­mu­nity lead­ers to forge stronger neigh­bor­hood ties.

The Crit­i­cal In­ci­dent Re­sponse Team will fo­cus pri­mar­ily on large gath­er­ings down­town, which have be­come com­mon in re­cent weeks and months.

Chicago saw wide­spread protests and loot­ing in late May af­ter the death of Ge­orge Floyd in Min­neapo­lis on Memo­rial Day. Brown said when large gath­er­ings man­i­fested down­town, it forced the CPD to pull of­fi­cers out of the South and West sides, where gun vi­o­lence is most preva­lent.

“Let us re­di­rect our anger to the loss of life on the South and West sides of Chicago,” Brown said last month af­ter a vi­o­lent con­fronta­tion be­tween po­lice and pro­test­ers at the since-re­moved Christo­pher Colum­bus statue in Grant Park.

Shortly af­ter tak­ing the reins of the de­part­ment, Brown told CPD lead­er­ship he wanted the city’s mur­der to­tal to re­main un

der 300 for 2020 — a tally not seen in Chicago since 1957.

Yet on May 31, dur­ing the height of the un­rest, Chicago recorded 18 mur­ders — mak­ing it the sin­gle most vi­o­lent day in the city’s mod­ern his­tory. With nearly five months to go this year, the city has seen more than 440 mur­ders. Chicago recorded 496 killings in all of 2019, ac­cord­ing to the CPD.

Be­yond the jar­ring num­ber of shoot­ings, many re­cent vic­tims of gun vi­o­lence were mi­nors. Fif­teen chil­dren have been shot to death in Chicago since June 20, ac­cord­ing to Sun-Times records. Five were 10 years old or younger.

Mean­while, four Chicago Po­lice of­fi­cers have been shot in just the last two weeks — with three wounded in a gun bat­tle out­side the de­part­ment’s 25th Dis­trict sta­tion on the North­west Side last week.

Since his ar­rival, Brown has grown in­creas­ingly vo­cal in crit­i­ciz­ing the Cook County crim­i­nal jus­tice ap­pa­ra­tus. He has called for re­vi­sions to the county’s home mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem and de­cried how fre­quently peo­ple charged with gun-re­lated crimes are re­leased from the Cook County Jail be­fore trial.

“There’s no con­se­quences to il­le­gal gun pos­ses­sion in our crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem,” he told re­porters in July. “My hopes are that the deaths of these young peo­ple won’t be in vain and will prick the hearts of the de­ci­sion­mak­ers who re­lease vi­o­lent of­fend­ers on elec­tronic mon­i­tor­ing back into these very com­mu­ni­ties to mete out this kind of vi­o­lence ev­ery week­end.”

Cook County State’s At­tor­ney Kim Foxx pushed back on Brown’s cri­tiques this past week.

“We have asked for any data that they have that’s dif­fer­ent from the data that we have,” Foxx said, be­cause her of­fice’s re­view doesn’t sup­port the “nar­ra­tive” that “these peo­ple are ar­rested with gun charges, and they’re right back out, and they’re com­mit­ting new crimes.”

In late June, Brown met with the heads of the Chicago of­fices of the DEA, ATF, FBI and U.S. at­tor­ney. Sources with knowl­edge of what hap­pened said Brown asked for more help in bring­ing gun and drug cases to the fed­eral level, where penal­ties are more strin­gent than in state court.

Mean­while, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump or­dered hun­dreds of ad­di­tional fed­eral agents to Chicago to help with gun and drug in­ves­ti­ga­tions as part of “Op­er­a­tion Leg­end.” About 20 peo­ple have been charged in fed­eral gun cases in Chicago in the past two weeks — more than any other type of crim­i­nal charge filed.

The U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice has also brought gun and drug charges against dozens of al­leged gang mem­bers from the South and West sides.

The CPD’s struc­tural changes and Chicago’s rise in vi­o­lence come as the de­part­ment strug­gles to com­ply with its fed­eral con­sent de­cree, the court-en­forced re­form plan spurred by the killing of Laquan McDon­ald by former CPD of­fi­cer Ja­son Van Dyke in 2014.

Mag­gie Hickey, the de­cree’s in­de­pen­dent mon­i­tor, has said she and her team have opened an in­quiry into CPD of­fi­cers’ con­duct dur­ing the days of un­rest in late May.


Char­lie Beck

David Brown


Chicago Po­lice Supt. David Brown at­tends a press con­fer­ence in the West Wood­lawn neigh­bor­hood on July 10. The CPD has cre­ated a Com­mu­nity Safety Team that will, in part, reach out to com­mu­nity lead­ers to forge stronger neigh­bor­hood ties.

Char­lie Beck


Four Chicago po­lice of­fi­cers have been shot in the last two weeks, in­clud­ing three wounded out­side the de­part­ment’s 25th Dis­trict sta­tion on the North­west Side last week (above).

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