| Crime |

Former Police Chief David Brown Talks Protests, Community Policing and Killer Robots on His Book Tour

Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

Since his retirement last October, former Dallas Police Chief David Brown has kept a relatively low profile. With the exception of a couple of commencement speeches, the ex-chief hasn't talked much about himself and his six years as chief of one of the largest police departments in the country.

This week, that all changed. Timed to coincide with the release of his memoir, Called to Rise, Brown's made the media rounds this week, popping up all over New York City to sell books.

While a lot of the conversation has been fairly boilerplate, over the course of the week, Brown opened up about the death of Micah Johnson — the gunman who ambushed Dallas police July 7, 2016 — how he feels about police protests and why he was born at just the right time. Here are some of the best bits of Brown's tour.

On Monday night, Brown talked about killing Micah Johnson at an event put on by Random House —

"We weaponized a bomb robot with a pound of C4. It had never been tried, never been thought of," Brown said. "We distracted the suspect, Micah Johnson, because the robot makes a humming noise and it had to go down a long hallway [to Johnson's perch at El Centro College] to get close enough to him to detonate. Our negotiator, who was skillful, for 3½ hours negotiated with him, tried to get him to give up peacefully, only to be met with joking and laughter about killing five officers and wanting to kill more officers. So the negotiator distracted him, the bomb robot got to the distance between you and I, and we had a det cord, a long cord — we tried that and it didn't work, but we had a backup that was a remote detonator. We pressed that, and it exploded. I'd do it again, without question."

On Fox and Friends on Wednesday morning, Brown discussed how he feels about protests following the ambush.

"If you go back through the history of our country, it's never been protest that's changed things," Brown said. "World War II, we had to fight. Our Founding Fathers, they protested, they threw tea in the Boston Harbor, but they fought. The civil rights generation, they served and they fought. Protest alone has never been the impetus for significant change in our country. I would encourage all those activists in whatever group to get more involved in the local democracy and be the change that you are seeking."

In a conversation with NPR's Robert Siegel on Tuesday, Brown explained the differences between when he grew up and when his youngest brother grew up a few years later, differences he believes contributed to his brother getting addicted to crack and being stabbed to death as a young man.

"There are some keys. I'm a big believer in early child education. Myself and my older brother, through my mother's double shift work, were able to start school in pre-K, kindergarten and first grade at a parochial school there in the neighborhood. She spent all of her extra money on us in the way we started school. And my younger brother, by the time he was born, she couldn't afford to send three kids to that private school.

And then we all went to public school. My brother and I always were advanced in our learning. And my younger brother, because he didn't have that quality early child education, always lagged. That was one distinction. Another is, but for the grace of God go I, and those kids — the drug of choice for experimentation during my generation was marijuana. It's not addictive when you try.

The drug of choice for my younger brother when he was of age for experimentation was crack. And you're addicted when you try for the rest of your life. There is the differences that I see," Brown said.

On Tuesday morning on The View, Brown explained why some people — and some cops — shouldn't be police officers.

"There are some folks — police officers know this better than anyone — [who] just can't treat people in a respectful way. They particularly can't handle pressure moments. So everyone's not suited to be a police officer," Brown says. "You know, the sergeant puts you with this guy, the cop, and you don't want to ride with him, or maybe you're forced to ride with him and you get to a call and you say 'You just stay in the car ... .' What happens is, when things are calm, they stir things up, they have you in internal affairs and they get you in trouble. They can define all of us. Those small number of people who can't do the job right define some of the bravest men and women that you ever want to be around."

In a Monday interview with The Crime Report, a journalism project of the Center on Media Crime and Justice at John Jay College, Brown explained why he believes Attorney General Jeff Sessions is on the wrong path and why community policing and criminal justice reform are so important.

"I understand how people may not get it initially, including people who are policy makers. I [came] into the profession without a full range of knowledge and experience on what the shortcomings of traditional policing does to the community," Brown said. "I fully understand, for example, Attorney General Jeff Sessions wanting to revert [to tough sentencing guidelines]. He doesn’t have that experience, so it just seems like the way to fight crime is to just lock people up. We know through research and experience that we weren’t any safer when we are in a lock-them-up, tough-on-crime culture. But human nature sometimes drives us to make decisions not based on facts. People generally sense that if you put a bad guy in jail, they’ll be safer, when that is absolutely not the case.

"You have to find a way to peel back the layers and find root causes and mitigate the root causes where they occur, whether that’s mental illness, drug addiction, job training, opportunities in the community or economic development. You have to find those root causes to have a really clean sense of what would make us safer, what impacts these communities. We criminalize poverty, we criminalize mental illness, we criminalize drug addiction, and those are treatable things that we can resolve with policy. Handcuffs are not the solution," Brown said.

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.