There are very few people in our city with the same telescopic view of the impact of mental health issues like former Chief of Police, David Brown. He’s felt it up close. Brown’s son suffered from bipolar disorder in silence, and in 2010 David Brown Jr. lost his own life after taking two others at an apartment complex in southern Dallas County. Brown previously said that because two others were killed, including a Lancaster police officer, he never felt comfortable grieving in public over the loss of his son. Brown has seen mental illness take hold of families in Dallas – families who are unsure where to turn when a loved one disassociates from reality and brings chaos into the home.
“There’s a worst-case scenario that comes to mind,” says Brown. “We had responded to a particular home over 30 times for the same person who suffered from mental illness. The family was so frustrated with the behavior that their solution was to call 911. The behavior began to escalate to violence, and the last call we got was seconds long. The officers ended up having to use deadly force. That’s the most tragic example of our failure to adequately deal with mental health in the community, and it’s not an uncommon example.”
Chief Brown led us through unspeakable grief after the July 7, 2016 shooting in downtown Dallas where a gunman killed five police officers, injured nine others and two civilians. His love for our city shined clearly in the thick of social unrest. Unforgettably, he recited a love song, Stevie Wonder’s “(As) I’ll Be Loving You Always,” during the memorial service for the fallen officers. And three months later, Brown made the difficult decision to retire.
“I knew we needed to look at this more comprehensively and as a partnership – not only with law enforcement and the medical community, but with each of us playing a role in our own communities.” David Brown, Former Police Chief of Dallas
During his 33-year tenure with the Dallas Police Department, Brown could clearly see the toxic cycle created when a community attempts to resolve mental health concerns with law enforcement. “It’s basically criminalizing the behavior without finding the root cause and a sustainable solution – which is quality medical care. I saw a revolving door of people suffering from mental illness going to jail. Prisons and jails are not equipped to properly care for people with mental illness, so then they make bail and bond, get out of jail, and the cycle repeats. I knew we needed to look at this more comprehensively and as a partnership – not only with law enforcement and the medical community, but with each of us playing a role in our own communities.”
For our city to provide the right resources and support structure for those suffering from mental illness, Brown believes shared responsibility is critical. “We need to admit that there’s a problem. All parts of government, all parts of the medical community and families need to admit that we’ve got a serious issue left unresolved,” he said. “It’s not hopeless, and I do think that there are solutions. Number one is adequate, quality medical care. What the medical community is currently doing to try to address this, particularly through Southwestern Medical Foundation, should be applauded and supported.”
Mental health advocacy is a focus of Brown’s life, and we are grateful for his continued leadership. Before retiring, he worked with the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute to pilot what would become the RIGHT Care program. He now sits on their board, and is also a member of Southwestern Medical Foundation’s Board of Trustees.
Check out the whole series:
Growing a Healthy City featuring Mayor Mike Rawlings, City of Dallas Building Courage in Our Community featuring Julie Hersh, Co-Founder and President, Hersh Foundation Investing in Mental Health for All Texans featuring Bruce Esterline, Senior Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Grants, The Meadows Foundation Solving the Mysteries of the Brain featuring Dr. Madhukar Trivedi, Director, Center for Depression Research and Clinical Care, UT Southwestern Medical Center Springing Hope from Credible Research featuring Andy Keller, PhD, President and CEO, Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute