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On the Front Lines of Social Change

Dallas Police Chief David Brown inspired a nation with his response to the killing of five of his officers. He discusses the reactions to that tragedy, his faith, and how he was changed by the death of his son. Read Transcript


Last summer, Black Lives Matter protests erupted

in cities across the nation.

On July 7, the city of Dallas paid host to one.

While the evening started out peaceful,

a retired army vet began to open fire

on police officers that were securing the event.

David Brown remembers that day because at the time

he was the chief of the Dallas police.

NARRATOR: In July of 2016, a sniper

killed five Dallas policeman.

The gunman said he was retaliating

because of repeated killings of unarmed black men

by white cops.

Dallas Police Chief David Brown end of the shooting spree

and restored order.

As a Dallas native, David says God

called him to protect his city.

In his new book "Called to Rise,"

David shares how his faith guided him through 33 years

on the force and how to make positive changes

in your community.

And Chief David Brown joins us now.

Chief, great to meet you.

God bless you.

Thank you, Wendy.

Let's get right into it.

Last summer, July 7, a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest

started around 7 o'clock in your city Dallas.

9 o'clock, you'd gone home, and you

got a phone call that several officers were down.

Take us through what happened.

Sure.

I had left for home.

I live right across the street from headquarters, so just

leaving home I was still close by.

But the protest was ending, and then spontaneously the marchers

began marching through the city without giving us notice.

And what happened is a sniper took advantage

of that spontaneity of the marchers

because officers had to scramble to block traffic to keep cars

from running over the marchers.

And because they were turning their backs stopping traffic,

this sniper took advantage of that

and began shooting them in the backs.

And his name was Micah Johnson, right?

And he holed himself up, after he shot some cops,

then he went out into a building and sort of was holed up there,

and started saying that he wanted to shoot

as many cops as possible.

Right.

Our brave officers were in a running gun battle with him

and chased him up to the second floor of a community college

in downtown Dallas.

In a gun exchange throughout, several hundred rounds

were exchanged.

Officers ran toward bullets to protect those very marchers

that were protesting police.

And you're on the phone, you're communicating

with officers on the ground.

And what are you advising them?

What do you do in a situation with a guy

like that who's already said, you know, I want to kill cops,

I'm not going to stop until I've killed as many as I can?

Do you reason with him, or do you take him out?

We had negotiated with this man for three hours.

I was a former SWAT squad leader during my tenure

for seven years, and so I knew exactly what this meant.

That someone who was intent on killing more cops,

laughing and bragging about the cops he had already killed,

and he was a very expert marksman.

So we had limited options, and I was

unwilling to put another cop in harm's way,

and we chose to do a very unique, first time only ever

in law enforcement's history to weaponize a bomb robot.

A bomb robot?

I had never-- this was new to me.

So you send a robot into this building, a bomb robot.

Yes.

It gets one foot from this guy.

Right.

And he doesn't even see it because you guys

are talking to him.

You're negotiating with him.

Right.

We strategically began negotiating with him

because he was out of control in his rhetoric about killing.

Particularly, white officers was his target.

And so we began negotiating with him

while this bomb robot went down that was strapped

with a pound of C-4, and we had a detonation cord attached

to it and a remote detonation in case

it failed so that we could get close enough to end the siege.

And this was your call, and you said let's end it.

I said let's end it.

And given the same circumstances, Wendy,

I would make the same decision again.

Wow.

How does your faith--

I know you're a strong Christian.

I know you were raised by single mom who was a strong believer.

How does your faith play into all these things

that you went through on the force,

and especially that night?

Well, I got to take the advantage to say this.

I'm a Christian not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.

I've got to say that first.

But our life story if we're Christians

and trying to live out our faith, they have a purpose.

They have a meaning while we go through tragedies in our life.

And I've had my share of tragedies.

But what that's done for me, through my faith

I'm able to have empathy, and it's more than empathy.

I have hope in the most desperate times,

in the deepest, darkest moments.

In crisis moments, my faith gives me hope,

and I can share that with others.

And Chief Brown, you've had more

than your fair share of tragedies.

Yes.

You lost your first police partner, Walter, in 1988.

Yes.

He was killed in the line of duty.

He lost your brother.

He was shot by a drug dealer just a few years later.

And you lost your son who--

Was mentally ill.

Was mentally ill.

Shot a cop, and then he got shot.

Right.

While you were an officer?

Yes.

You said that losing your child

was the worst pain, indescribable pain that you've

ever been through.

How did your faith get you through?

Well, if you read the Bible and the story of Job

and how God sustained Job through worst tragedies

than I've gone through, you take those examples of the Bible

and you take that and apply it to your life.

And how you share with people who go through tragedies,

it's authentic, Wendy.

It comes across to people.

I know what to say to grieving families because I've grieved.

I know how sometimes to be quiet and listen to people

share their pain.

And so I was able to do that on a national stage because

of my tragedies.

You don't think anything good can come from a tragedy,

but we know through God's word all things work together

for the good of them that love the Lord.

And you said in your book that used

to be the kind of beat cop, you're

lock them up and let God deal with him later.

Yes.

And then something happened.

Then you started seeing these guys differently-- and women.

Yes.

God gives us compassion for people.

He convicts us in our own.

Sometimes we feel superiority.

And what happened to me is I transformed

to a lock them all up and let God sort them

out to a community-oriented policing that applies

some compassion people, particularly people who

have mental health problems or who

are drug addicted that need maybe a diversion from prison

so they can get treatment, and then the violent people

will obviously need to go to jail.

We need to have more jail bed space so that we don't, again,

have a revolving door for criminality.

Well, there are a lot of people watching

who may have taken sides on the Black Lives Matter

versus the Blue Lives Matter.

You're both.

You're black and blue.

I am, yes.

I mean, what do you say to them?

I say go to a funeral of a person of color killed

by a police officer, and then go to a funeral of a cop who

makes the ultimate sacrifice.

The grief is the same.

The pain is the same.

We need to take away these labels of black and blue.

I always thought I was in the people business.

I'm there to serve people regardless of our lot

in life, our status, our sociodemographic lot.

I think that if we take away those labels

and apply service--

WENDY GRIFFITH: All lives matter, right?

All of them.

All of them.

Even the label of All Lives Matter

creates some dissension with some people.

i just say we're in the people business.

Let's care about people more than we

care about our position in life and what we believe in

as far as Black Lives Matter versus Blue Lives Matter,

and you'll likely have a better outcome.

All right.

Well, we've just scratched the surface, Chief, then.

You look way too young to retire.

So I don't know what God has next for you,

but his book and this cover looks fierce.

You've got to get this Chief David Brown, Dallas police

chief.

"Called to Rise," and you certainly

did that on behalf of Dallas and our nation, and we salute you.

God bless you.

Thank you so much.

Thank you, Wendy.

You're welcome.

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