DeKalb names Byrd as its first Black police chief

David+Byrd+will+become+the+city%E2%80%99s+first+Black+police+chief+in+its+135-year+history.

Kierra Frazier

David Byrd will become the city’s first Black police chief in its 135-year history.

Kierra Frazier, Managing Editor

DeKALB – Illinois State Police Col. David Byrd has been named DeKalb’s newest police chief for the DeKalb Police Department. Byrd will also become the city’s first Black police chief in its 135-year history. 

“As soon as I put on that uniform, it’s time to go and I’ll be ready, so thank you for the opportunity,” Byrd said at Monday’s City Council meeting.

Byrd is a 31-year veteran of the Illinois State Police and was appointed as the deputy director for the Division of Patrol of the Illinois State Police in August 2020. Byrd has held several positions over the years including assistant deputy director for the Office of the Director, north region commander and commander of District Chicago. 

Byrd was born and raised on the south side of Chicago; he attended Lindblom Technical High School and graduated in 1985. Byrd attended Grambling State University in Louisiana, where he majored in criminal justice. He will take office on May 1. 

Byrd said he’s very accepting of every culture and sexual orientation, and he expects the same from other law enforcement members under his leadership. 

“You hear so many people talk about tolerance and ‘I’ll tolerate this, I’ll tolerate this culture,’ but we’re not looking for tolerance, we’re looking for accepting, and that’s what we need is acceptance,” Byrd said.

In December, a community search committee for a new police chief was established after conversations regarding a citizen-led committee to oversee the police department and to improve the hiring policies for officers started over the summer as calls for police reform intensified. 

Interim Police Chief Bob Redel was appointed the interim position May 26 after former Interim Police Chief John Petragallo retired after 26 years of service. 

City Manager Bill Nicklas said there were 27 candidates who applied for the position, and the committee later narrowed it down to six candidates in early February. Nicklas said last Thursday the committee narrowed it down to two candidates and made their final decision, which was unanimous. 

“He’s a dynamic leader; he has a remarkable depth,” Nicklas said. “David has made a point of immersing himself in the communities that he serves.” 

John Walker, a member of the search committee, said the DeKalb community needed a police chief who kept in touch with the community. 

He’s not coming here to give us a facelift; he’s coming here to lead us into where we are going and it’s up to us as residents to follow this lead,”

— John Walker

“He’s not coming here to give us a facelift; he’s coming here to lead us into where we are going and it’s up to us as residents to follow this lead,” Walker said. “Honestly, I just think that you guys definitely should take this man into consideration because honestly, I have a good feeling about this man.” 

Earnell Brown, a member of the search committee, said during the interview process, Byrd spoke to the core of cultural change that needs to happen in DeKalb. 

“We didn’t choose a police chief — we chose who we needed for DeKalb’s police chief because this is a change in the nature, the very core of the culture of this city,” Brown said. “[DeKalb] is going through some things confronted by some old demons and new challenges, and it’s going to be tough, and that’s one thing that we wrangled over: ‘who would have what it takes to be a part of the change.’”