Dallas police chief announced as commencement speaker


Jasleen Shokar

Dallas Police Chief David Brown will serve as the commencement speaker for UT-Austin’s May 2017 graduating class, the University announced Friday.

Brown, who is set to retire in October, accepted the invitation from President Gregory Fenves Friday in a phone call, according to the Dallas Morning News.

After the July 7 shooting in Dallas that left five police officers dead and nine injured, Brown was praised for the way he handled the situation and built
community relations.

Brown, who has been with the Dallas Police Department for 33 years and served as chief for six, announced his retirement on Sept. 1 through the Dallas Police Department Twitter account.

Advertising senior Bria Benjamin said in an email she is interested to see Brown talk about his time in the police force in Dallas, this summer’s shooting, the Black Lives Matter movement and what advice he offers graduates.

“There’s the reputation of this school being a liberal haven in a sea of red, which is partly true,” Benjamin said. “But, then again, in the four years I’ve been here I’ve seen things and heard stories that prove UT has a lot of room to grow in how it treats minority groups. I think that by having Dallas Police Chief Brown speak at commencement shows UT’s
willingness to acknowledge race in America/Texas but a hesitation to take a true stance.” 

In a news conference on Sept. 8, Brown said his last day as Dallas police chief would be Oct. 22 but changed the date to Oct. 4 in a written statement a week later.

Senate of College Councils Vice President Austin Reynolds, a student representative who sat on the selection committee, said in an email that Brown embodies the true meaning of being a Longhorn and inspired a sense of hope. 

“As you may know, Chief Brown introduced President Obama at the Dallas Shooting Memorial, so the committee that selected the commencement speaker was able to learn more about Chief Brown during his brief spotlight,” Reynolds said. “Chief Brown delivered a poignant, heartfelt message during a time of confusion and loss. He was able to capture the suffering of two communities and represent them through the brief time he had for his introduction. 

Reynolds said Chief Brown was at one point accepted to UT but chose to protect his community instead of attending the University. 

Binna Kim, Student Government vice president and another student representative on the committee, said Brown has an incredible story to tell. 

“He has worked as an advocate for minority groups within a community with a goal to build trust between those groups and the police department,” Kim said in an email. “Throughout his whole career he has worked to bridge communities. That is very relevant to what is happening around us today.” 

Kim says she is excited he will be speaking at her graduation. 

“I am proud to attend a university that never strays away from difficult conversations, and I think having Chief Brown as our commencement speaker is doing just that,” Kim said. “As a member of the graduating class of 2017, I feel incredibly lucky to have such a moving speaker with a powerful story take the stage at our commencement.”

This story has been updated since its initial publication.