Editorial: Police chief announced, continue including community


Kierra Frazier

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

On March 8, DeKalb named Illinois State Police Col. David Byrd DeKalb’s police chief, making him the first Black man to ever hold the position in DeKalb’s 135 year-long history. 

The Northern Star Editorial Board is excited to see a needed change in the DeKalb Police Department as Byrd takes the role in May, but we think DeKalb must continue to do more to include and reflect its citizens and their voices especially in other important community leadership roles.

The steps DeKalb has taken to listen to citizen feedback in the selection of the new police chief are great markers of community impact. A citizen-led, community search committee recommended Byrd to the DeKalb City Council during the selection process before the council voted Byrd in unanimously, according to a March 8 news release from the city.

However, the community is still healing from its racial and law enforcement tensions. In June 2020, the Hopkins bandshell was defaced with “All Lives Matter” graffiti before a Black Lives Matter protest was supposed to be held there, according to the Northern Star. 

In September 2020, the Center for Black Studies at Northern Illinois University was defaced with racial slurs, according to the Northern Star.

DeKalb is still coping from the arrest of Elonte McDowell in 2019, which many Dekalb residents, police investigation and the editorial board found to be excessive use of force. During McDowell’s arrest, Sgt. Jeff Weese tazed and used a chokehold on Elonte, according to the Northern Star. The incident caused residents to advocate for police reform in DeKalb in the first place. 

BLM protests were held at the DeKalb County Police Department while Byrd, as deputy director for the Illinois State Police, was addressing protests and crowd control in other areas of the state, according to the Ford County Chronicle. Byrd said in the article as a Black man he was hurt by George Floyd’s death, the catalyst for protests, and as an officer, he was ashamed to see the footage. 

“The (Illinois State Police) supports the peaceful protests that are occurring across the nation and across the state of Illinois for members of our community who want their voices heard,” Byrd said in the article.

The board feels it is unreasonable to expect Byrd to solely bear the responsibility to rectify or solve these existing issues because they pre-date his relationship in the city; however, with continued community involvement and Byrd’s leadership, the board hopes meaningful change and community healing is possible. 

Byrd welcomes community engagement. “[He] prefers to meet the community face-to-face and in the locations and spaces where residents are most comfortable,” City Manager Bill Nicklas said in a DeKalb news release

Byrd said he thinks  DeKalb is doing an amazing job engaging the community.

“I’m here to act as a force multiplier for that,” Byrd said. “I’m looking forward to meeting with the community and being invested in whatever I can do as the head of the Police Department to make life better for the community and all of the officers of the DeKalb Police Department.”

The Northern Star Editorial Board is optimistic to see what Byrd’s leadership has to offer DeKalb, and hopes Byrd can work with DeKalb’s residents to meet their needs, protect everyone and create a safer, more unified community.