Former Dallas Police Chief honored for service with J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award

The Dallas Police Choir sang the national anthem at the J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award Luncheon on March 21. The luncheon, which took place at the Belo Mansion, honored former Dallas Police Chief David O. Brown.

The award, presented by SMU’s Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility, is given annually to individuals who have demonstrated leadership and performed outstanding public services. Brown received the award for his 33 years of service at the Dallas Police Department and guiding the city through some of its darkest days after the deaths of five police officers during a mass shooting July 2016.

Notable SMU alumni, distinguished Dallas residents and Dallas police officers attended the luncheon. Former first Lady Laura Bush was also one of the attendees, which prompted Bobby Lyle, SMU Trustee and Maguire Ethics Center Board Member to announce, “you know you’re deserving of an award when the former First Lady is in attendance.”

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Dallas Chief of Police, David O. Brown. Photo credit:

Brown, a Dallas native, is the longest serving police chief in recent history. He commanded a department of over 4,000 employees and had a yearly budget of $426 million since he became Dallas’ 28th police chief in May 2010. Brown retired Oct. 4, 2016.

Brown’s focus as police chief included creating strong relationships between the community and the Dallas Police Department. He worked to ensure the safety of both the citizens and officers during interactions. He also implemented policies that placed a high level of importance on de-escalation training for his officers.

Attendees eat lunch at the 20th Annual Maguire Ethics Luncheon at the Belo Mansion in Dallas. Photo credit: Lauren Winterhalder

“This award recognizes those who face hard decisions and whose mettle is tested,” said Rita Kirk, Director of SMU’s Maguire Ethics Center. “Brown personifies the struggle of leaders trying to do the right thing during periods of intense pressure. Our community is stronger because of his leadership, particularly in the wake of recent events.”

Kirk recognized the tremendous impact Brown had on the Dallas community following the mass shootings in July 2016.

“His actions during those days not only reflected the character of our community to other cities around the world who watched, but also left us united, stronger and more hopeful that we will overcome any obstacle to make this a better city for all our citizens,” Kirk said.

The J. Erik Jonsson Award is named after the former mayor of Dallas, who guided Dallas following the assassination of former president John F. Kennedy. Brown gave credit to the former mayor for contributing to his path to success by hiring African American Dallas residents.

“Isn’t it funny that you get an award from a man who opened up the opportunity for your mother, who he hired, who then impacts your education, that impacts your life, then impacts your family’s life, then impacts a city’s life, that a country sees during a tragedy,” Brown said.

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