David O. Brown - Reexamining the Work of Police in "Called to Rise" - Extended Interview

Extended - July 11, 2017 - David O. Brown 07/11/2017 Views: 35,746

Former Dallas Police Chief David O. Brown reflects on the 2016 shooting of five city officers and weighs in on how to improve the criminal justice system in "Called to Rise." (9:22)

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Please welcome David O. Brown.

(applause and cheering)

Welcome to the show.

Thank you very muchfor having me. It's my pleasure.

Um, it's-it's a reallywonderful story

that you tell in your book.

It is illuminating, and it issad and happy at the same time.

-Right.-Before we get into the story,

a lot of peoplemay recognize you

or may be familiar with you,because a year ago,

you were on TV givinga press conference

-after, I think it wasfive policeman... -Yes.

-...were fatally shot in Dallas.-Right. Yes.

Looking back at that time,

looking at the storiesthat caused it--

Alton Sterling,Philando Castile--

and, you know, the proteststhat followed from that point,

where do you think the policeare in America right now?

It seems that every timewe take some steps forward,

another viral video comes out,and we take two steps back,

or another cop is ambushed,

and we go further backinto our divided corners.

-Right. -So, I'm always hopeful,but I'm...

I try to keep it pretty factualand real.

We're-we're still dividedaround policing in this country,

particularly in communitiesof color,

particularlywith young black men.

And I'm hopeful that I havesome prescriptions in my book

and that the platformof the book,

on this showand other shows,

I can talk a little bitabout what we have in common,

much more than we... that whatwe have that divides us.

-Mm-hmm.-And I try to at least...

because I'm an inner city kidgrowing up in this country,

in the inner cities of Dallas,poor, in a high-crime area...

I can see both sides,

having been a police officer for33 years, all of my adult life.

Now it's interestingthat you bring that up,

because in the book,you talk about how

you got into crime fighting,

-because that's whatyou wanted to do. -Right.

The crack epidemic was somethingthat was, you know,

severely affectingyour neighborhood.

You wanted to do somethingabout it.

You became a police officer.

But then, in a way,you became part of the problem

-of mass incarceration. How?-Yes.

Well, I thought thatthe drug dealer on the corner

was the personthat needed to go to jail.

And actually I thought,"Let's put 'em all in jail

and let God sort 'em out."

I saw that much likeany victim sees,

uh, being broken into, breakinginto your house or your car.

-Right. -You want that personput in jail

for taking something from you.

Or maybe evenfor a violent crime,

killing someone you love--

you want that personput in jail.

And that's the narrow view I hadof criminality in this country

as a rookie cop, 22 years old.

When you look at that, though,it seems like it makes sense.

Someone is taking drugsillegally.

Why should you notlock them all up?

Because, at first,it's a math problem.

It's practical.

Uh, secondly, I thinkit doesn't resolve the issue.

It's a revolving door.

Crime in this country'sa revolving door,

because we don't haveenough jail bed space.

-Right. -And so for everycriminal you put in jail,

if you don't make a distinctionbetween low-level

versus a very violent person,

you let outanother violent person in jail

or another personaddicted to crack

or another person addictedto opioid currently,

and they...they're just in a cycle.

And the criminality happensall of their adult life.

There's people I chasedall of their adult life

until they were too oldto commit crimes.

-Wow.-And it's just not productive.

But the main thing it... it is,it doesn't make us any safer.

During the mass incarcerationyears, in the '80s and '90s,

were the highest crime ratesin this country.

So it did not make us safer.

So, as someone who has beenon both sides--

I mean, you've been a civilian

and you're beena police officer,

and at the highest level,as well--

you've seen the systemand how it works.

Now, what was interestingin the book

is how you talkabout your love of action.

-You were part of the SWAT teaminitially. -Yes.

And then you were reassignedto a different division

where you would have to be partof community policing,

something that you werevehemently against.

Oh, like, it was likepulling teeth, man.

I hated... sitting there,connecting with the community,

as... I was a lieutenantat the time.

-Yeah. -I just didn't see itbeing productive, until I met...

Actually, I was in the housingprojects, in Dallas.

In an apartment convertedto a police storefront.

-Right.-From the SWAT team.

So you can just see, just,I was just torn apart

at this assignment,until I met a lady,

an older lady that reminded meof my grandmother.

And I was reminded--I'm here to serve... people,

not to serve myself.

And the excitement of the job

wasn't supposed to beself-aggrandizing.

I was supposed to be makingthe community my priority,

and that little old ladyreally reminded me,

uh, because, like you,I've been black a long time...


-And so...-I started when I was seven.

Oh, yeah, yeah,yeah, yeah, yeah.

I've been black so long, I can'tremember when I started, man.

So, she reminded me of...

the priorities ought to bethe community.

-Right.-That there's no difference,

but for the grace of God go I,

that people live in poverty--

particularly generationalpoverty-- and me,

but for the breaksI get in life,

the people that help me,that mentor me,

and that I should be lendingopportunity to these people

while keeping them safe.

Well, what differencehave you seen it make, though?

Because some would arguethat community policing

is a waste of resources.

They would say: Why shouldpolice be trying to make friends

in these neighborhoods?

Shouldn't you just beenforcing the law?

So, yes. So let's contrastand compare facts.

During the mass incarcerationdrug wars,

the crime rates in this country,in the big cities especially,

were at this highest.

I was chief six years in Dallas.

I put forththe community policing effort.

The lowest crime ratesin Dallas history.

-Wow. -The lowest murder ratesince 1930.

(cheering, applause)

You... You-you came outand made a statement

after the, um, the shootingsthat took place in Dallas.

And what stuck with me,and I'll paraphrase you,

was you talked about how,in America today,

police are tasked with doing somuch more than they should be.

They are social workers,they are counselors,

they are psychologists,they are--

They're doing so many things

-that they should not be doing.-That's right.

As someone who is a policeman,

as someone who has workedand lived in the community,

what does that doto a policeman?

All of these jobs that, I guess,

you feel shouldn't be doneby the police?

Without making excuses forpeople who shouldn't be cops,

who make the wrong mistakes,

make the wrong decisionsunder pressure,

what-what all of those tasks do,

is it exhausts people.

Because these are just people

who joined the police forceto try to do good

-in the community, try to makepeople safe. -Right.

But they get so many tasks,and they run from police call

to police call to police call.

The exhaustion makes youineffective,

that you're not, uh,doing the type of work

that you should be doingto make us all safer.

Because, you know,mental health policy

and funding is lackingin this country everywhere.

We have to learnmental health skills.

We have to learn howto diagnose schizophrenia,

and bipolar, and all the--

and so that we can divertthese people to services.

That's the police jobin this country now.

A third of the prison population

are people sufferingfrom mental illness.

And then think aboutdrug addiction,

and the lacking of fundingfor drug treatment.

Well, cops have to try to dealwith drug people,

because what they ha-- what theydo, they support their habit

and they steal from us.

-Or they get violentand they hurt us, -Right.

because they're addictedto drug

and trying to support a habit,

because we don't have enoughfunding for treatment.

It's an illness, mental health,drug treatment,

that we try to resolvewith handcuffs.

And it was never meantto be resolved with handcuffs.

You-you also talk about this

from an experiencethat very few share.

One of the mostheartbreaking stories

-you talk about in the bookrelates to your son, -Yes.

who you lostat the hands of police.

-Mentally ill.-Not-not in wrongful doing,

but wh-what--if you don't mind sharing it,

-what exactly led to that?-Sure.

My-my adult son at 27, who wasliving on his own at the time,

was suffering fromadult-onset bipolar.

And he had an episodeand killed two people,

one being a cop,and was subsequently killed.

And I was a month into the joband got notice of that.

I was unaware that he

had begun experiencing thesemental episodes,

'cause he wasn't living at homewith me anymore at 27.

And what I-- really, to takeaway from that is that,

that, obviously, is the mostunnatural thing to bury a child,

particularly underthose circumstances.

Uh, under any circumstances,by the way.

But I had lost my first partner,uh, police partner.

I had lost a brother.

And now I had lost a son.

And then July 7th happens,

and I have to consolefive police families.

I have to console the city.

I have to console the countryon the world stage.

And only upon reflection

does any of my personaltragedies make sense.

That it makes sensethat I had been prepared

to be able to say the rightthings at the right time,

during that particular crisisin Dallas.

And that's what I sharein the book.

Oh, it's a really amazing storythat you share.

You know, as you say, you-youhad an illustrious career.

Thank you for sharing the story.

Thank you for beingon the show.

-Thank you so much, Trevor.-Really appreciate it.

Called to Rise is available now.

David O. Brown, everybody.

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