CRG Commander John Brooks
John Brooks is the commander of the Community Response Group, a specialized anti-protest task force SPD formed in response to the uprising over the murder of George Floyd. Hired in 1992, Brooks rose through the ranks to the position of captain by way of the training unit, where he helped design SPD’s riot tactics.
Killing a suicidal man
- In his first decade on the job, Brooks was involved in the killing of a suicidal man. In 2001, SPD officers including Brooks confronted a 23-year-old who was armed with a knife and threatening to commit suicide. After attempting to Taser the man, a SWAT officer shot him six times at close range, killing him.
The pink umbrella
- While the protests were raging at Cal Anderson last June, Brooks was in charge of the riot line and gave the order to use tear gas during the infamous pink umbrella incident on June 1.
- OPA sustained a complaint against Brooks for unnecessarily escalating (a finding later overturned by the acting police chief). In his interview, Brooks claimed that the umbrellas were evidence of “coordinated conduct” and intent to “confront” officers. Prior to the tug-of-war over the umbrella, SPD was already gearing up to deploy gas, substituting masked officers for bike cops, according to the OPA investigation.
OPA ruled that the dispersal was unjustified on three grounds:
- The vast majority of the crowd was non-violent. Only one plastic bottle was thrown in the lead-up to the gassing.
- The presence of umbrellas did not show intent to confront officers or breach the line.
- The threat that protesters would burn the precinct down if allowed to pass through was purely speculative
Brooks was named in other complaints for major protest incidents, including the dust-up at the memorial for slain protester Summer Taylor as well as another alleging SPD deliberately targeted medical tents. OPA didn’t sustain findings against him for either.
Photographer falsely arrested
- In 2012, Brooks was named in a suit over the arrest of photojournalist Joshua Garland at the annual May Day march.
- According to the suit, an officer under Brooks’ command shoved Garland and then arrested him for assault —a charge later disproven by video evidence and dismissed. Brooks approved the false arrest.
Sexual harassment on his watch
- Other blemishes on Brooks’ record call into question his fitness as a supervisor. Brooks supervised SPD officer John Knight for several years, during which Knight was routinely harassing and groping female officers in the Training Unit.
- The OPA didn’t question Brooks or the other supervisor, choosing instead to review interviews from the criminal investigation. In them, Brooks said he was aware of “butt-slapping” and “hugging” in the Training Unit, but not the specific allegations.
- Two of Brooks’ subordinates filed complaints alleging retaliation.
- One claimed Brooks retaliated against him for raising concerns about carbon dioxide levels in the workplace
- He alleged that Brooks referred to him as the “problem child” of the office and pressured him to transfer to another post.
- A second officer complained of similar behavior — that Brooks put pressure on him to leave — after he filed a lawsuit against the department for an on-the-job injury