Dallas city leaders on Thursday said Police Chief David Brown was talking privately about retirement long before the July 7 ambush that left five officers dead, and long before he made the announcement on Thursday.
In the weeks since then, city hall observers said Brown's critics have been mostly silenced by his performance under pressure in the wake of the tragedy that shocked the nation. Community policing policies promoted by Brown won praise from President Barack Obama at a July memorial service as an example for other cities to follow.
So city leaders who knew and worked with Brown said they were caught off guard, only by the fact that Brown is choosing to step down now.
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"I was maybe just surprised by the timing but not the fact he was going to be looking to do something else," said Councilman Lee Kleinman. "He's done such a great job on community policing. I wish him the best."
Brown has served 33 years on the Dallas police force. He was sworn in as chief six years ago under pressure to continue reducing crime.
"Under his leadership, we have also done it the right way, reducing deadly force dramatically," said Mayor Mike Rawlings.
Brown imposed restrictions on foot chases and use of deadly force that were unpopular with Dallas police unions. The city launched a web page disclosing some details on use of force incidents and greatly expanded the use of police tasers and body cameras during Brown’s time as chief.
Councilman Casey Thomas, a former Dallas NAACP President, praised Brown’s accomplishments.
"I think he made tremendous progress. He changed policy that was unpleasant, not happy to the unions. But he did what he thought was right and was best for the city and I was supportive of him and continue to be supportive," Thomas said. "He’s been a great example and a role model for people of all nationalities."
Other community leaders were not satisfied. Rev. Ronald Wright, leader of the Dallas civil rights group Justice Seekers Texas, said Brown failed to live up to expectations.
"Unfortunately, I think it may have been time for him to move on," Wright said.
Wright said too few officers faced criminal charges and too few reforms were completed on mistreatment of suspects.
"I'm not saying that they were angels, but they certainly didn't deserve to be judged, tried and convicted right there on the spot," he said. "We were hoping that David Brown would make a difference."
The co-founder of Mothers Against Police Brutality, John Fullinwider, said despite praise, the Dallas Police Department has not been reformed under Brown.
Vice president of the Dallas Police Association, who said the chief has done a good job, but leaves with a number of serious issues unresolved like police pay.
He also told us what the association would like to see in the next chief.
"We just hope that he finds or they find a individual who can come in have innovative ideas and take input from the street officers, the command staff not just above but the lower command staff," said Sgt. Mike Mata, vice president of the Dallas Police Association.
After 11 straight years of crime reduction, violent crime spiked this year and Brown juggled a shrinking staff to respond. Brown requested more manpower and higher pay to keep Dallas officers from leaving in a new budget being finalized at City Hall now. His Oct. 22 resignation date comes just after that budget fight will be over.
"Six years is more than an eternity for a chief in a big city. To say that it is high pressure, highly political job, would be an understatement. We know why Chief Brown held the job as long as he did and he is leaving on his own terms," said Rawlings.
Regardless of what others think, in Dallas the police chief serves at the pleasure of the city manager. Current city manager, A.C. Gonzalez, had already announced his own retirement, effective in January. Rawlings said Brown's permanent replacement will be up to a new city manager, yet to be chosen.
"What better time if they're going to go, go together, so you can have the new city manager bring in their own person. And I think that could be a positive," said City Councilman Mark Clayton. "But there are huge challenges so we’re going to have to have some creative ideas."
Assistant Dallas Police Chief David Pughes was named interim chief Thursday.