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Called to Rise

Retired Dallas Police Chief David O. Brown discusses his faith and reactions after five police officers were killed in the summer of 2016. Read Transcript


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 ended 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.

Well, Chief Brown joins us now, and I've got to say,

it's an honor to have you with us.

Thank you so much for having me.

Take us back to that moment, where

you got the phone call that officers were being killed.

Right, and the context of that moment

is, I had not lost any officers in the line of duty

during my tenure as police chief,

and I was the longest serving since the 1940s in Dallas.

So this phone call was significant for me,

that we had officers down and that we had an active shooter

downtown and that it was continuing

to put people's lives at risk.

So it was a very seminal moment for me to hear the news

and to rise to the occasion.

What was your first response, your first gut reaction?

Anger, because I knew that some of the things that

happened over the July 4th weekend last year

had ratcheted up the vitriol, as it relates

to police and communities of color,

in particular with the Philando Castile shooting

and with the shooting in Baton Rouge of Alton Sterling.

And so we were, obviously, very cautious in our planning,

but a long sniper, not a protester,

decided to try to divide us even further.

So you were anticipating that there would be violence?

No, actually, we had worked with the protesters

and were very comfortable that there would not be violence

amongst the protesters.

As a matter of fact, when we had worked in the community,

since I was chief, to bring people together.

We had focused on young people, and we

had a community policing oriented effort that had us

together as a Dallas community but for this sniper coming

and trying to divide us.

Well, let's just get into the underlying issue, which

is the perception that police forces tend

to be extraordinarily violent in dealing

with the black community, and from your experience,

is that true?

Is there a reality to the perception?

And there's also perceptions of White cops come

into these communities of color and sacrifice everything risk

their lives to protect them, and your worldview

can be shaped by either perception.

What is true is that five cops gave their lives for people

who were protesting them.

They ran toward bullets.

They put themselves as human shields

for people who were just calling the profession racist.

And so you juxtapose people giving their lives with this

perception that they're--

At the time they were doing it,

they didn't know they were the targets.

They had no idea that they were the targets.

They just knew active shooter.

We have civilians here we need to protect.

And not just civilians, these were people, majority black,

in the crowd, protesting.

So these were the very people who were protesting

policing in our country.

And what happened when the shots rang out

is that these officers ran toward gunfire,

regardless of race, ethnicity, beliefs, position.

They sacrificed their lives for these people.

So there's no question in my mind

that the facts support that policing

is a noble profession of brave, courageous people willing

to sacrifice their lives for all of us.

Let's talk your story, because you go into it in the book.

What got you involved in law enforcement?

I was a senior at the University of Texas at Austin.

Hook 'em Horns.

And the crack cocaine epidemic in this country,

particularly my neighborhood, like other inner cities.

Friends of mine became addicted to crack cocaine,

and I wanted to do something about it.

I left school my senior year, put in an application,

and became a Dallas police officer.

And my first beat was my old neighborhood.

I was willing to put skin in the game to make a change.

Why?

It's how I was raised.

And my mother taught me this, and I

think that mothers teach all their kids this.

You want something done right, be willing to do it yourself.

That's my upbringing is that you serve

people, that your frustrations, maybe even your disappointment

in how you're being treated by people

requires you to be part of that solution,

to be part of that change that you want to see.

Don't expect others to do something for you.

You do it yourself is how I was raised

and how I was brought up.

Well, one of the things I absolutely admire about how you

handled the crisis in Dallas is you're saying,

look, if you have problems with the police force, we're hiring.

Right?

You can be part of the solution.

And it's a broader message to government.

People who complain about government

not doing enough or maybe even doing too much,

where you find a deficit in government,

the way our democracy works is that you participate in it

to make those changes.

It's how our country was founded.

It's when our country has been at its best, when people

participate in solutions and not just complain,

which you have every right to express your First Amendment

rights of free speech but significant change

happens when you put skin in the game.

How did faith sustain you through this?

And I think we've got to get it into more of your story.

You had some incredible tragedies.

Yes, I have a Job-like story in my life,

where my first police partner was killed in the line of duty.

My brother was killed by a drug dealer.

My son, who had adult onset bipolar,

killed an officer in a suburban city

and then is killed himself.

I've had significant tragedy, where

you would think I would not only give up my faith

but quit the job.

Just the opposite happened.

God gives me this unmerited favor, this grace, this mercy

to be able to rise above my tragedy

and actually use that tragedy, upon reflection--

I mean, at the time, I don't understand

why I have to go through this.

But when I--

We never do when we're going through it.

Yeah, we never really understand

why we go through difficulties in our life,

but if we would just sit still and trust God, trust His grace,

when we get to July 7th, I know what to say to the families

to console them.

I know how to console our department, our city.

And I'm on the world stage, and I'm

able to actually share my faith on the world stage.

And I reflect, thinking, this is what God had for me.

This is what He'd been preparing me for my whole life.

Well, you saw it from that stage, but in the middle of it,

because I think that's where a lot of people

are, there in the middle of that struggle, that Job experience.

What kept you saying, I'm going to move forward.

I'm not gonna give up.

I'm not gonna turn my back on God.

I'm going to go forward.

Actually, there's a moment in the book

I describe, a particular scene, where my partner is killed.

This is what happens first in 1988.

Walter, and I'm 28 years old, and I don't understand

why bad things happen to good people at that point

and I want to quit my faith, and I want to quit the job.

I go to a prayer service at a small church

to say goodbye to the Lord, and in the prayer service

there is testimony after testimony

after testimony of older ladies who encouraged me to stay.

I come back the next Wednesday and the next Wednesday

and the next Wednesday.

I stay in my faith, and I'm encouraged to stay on the job.

And that prayer meeting re-encouraged me in the faith.

And it made me understand, yes, we have to go through trials.

That being saved doesn't exempt you from tragedy.

It actually helps you use tragedy

for the betterment of others.

If anything, it qualifies you.

Yes, sir.

Yes, sir.

That's exactly it.

It doesn't exempt you.

It says, you know, here, you say you want to follow me?

OK.

We're gonna see.

Yes and then--

Take up your cross.

Here we go.

Yes.

Do you see a solution for the racial divide we're in now,

you know?

I do.

I thought we had a lot of progress,

but all the recent events, frankly, get you discouraged.

It does, but I find hope in it.

I think that, first of all, the church is the solution,

that we should be the example.

It's no coincidence that I'm a Christian,

not ashamed of the Gospel, and I've gone through this,

and I'm here today sharing it on this show.

That's no coincidence.

It's no coincidence that I was a police chief,

and if you hadn't noticed, I'm black.

That's no coincidence.

And that only through my faith was

I able to navigate the most difficult crisis

in policing since 9/11.

That's not a coincidence.

And I'm saying it's through faith in Christ

that I've been able to resolve and reconcile

race and policing and crisis and tragedy through faith.

So I hope to play a small part, but the church

has a broader part to play in being that example that

heals the wound, that balm in Gilead

is a salve for our wounds.

And I believe it, that through the church,

we can be reconciled.

I believe it.

Amen.

I believe it too.

Well, the book is entitled, "Call to Rise,"

and it's available now nationwide.

And I encourage you to get it.

If you're going through a Job experience,

this book will encourage you, and it'll get you to the point

where you can say, yes, I can come back

for one more prayer meeting.

Yeah, that's good.

All right, thanks for being with us.

Thank you so much.

God bless you.

My pleasure.

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