Sheriff Brown Doesn't Fit The Old-style Cop Stereotype


June 23, 1991|By Jeff Griffith

John Brown is tired of all those old jokes about his body lying "moldering in the grave."

But not much else makes the first-term sheriff tired.

He approaches his new duties with enthusiasm and a grin.

He acknowledges, for example, that he was once a Democrat. He grew up in Baltimore City, after all.

"You had to be a Democrat in Baltimore City," he admits with a laugh.

And, he asserts, "I've always been aconservative."

Well, maybe.

A big but gentle man, the 6-foot-31/2-inch, 225-pound retired cop mixes conservatism with compassion.

For example, he notes that "about 50 percent" of those who end up in his jail have problems with drugs or alcohol, or both, that have contributed to their incarceration.

That profile includes not only the DWI offenders but those who are accused of domestic violence.

What to do? Health Department programs, as effective as they are, areoften full, and usually require transporting prisoners to locations away from the lockup. That creates opportunities for escape.

Working with a private rehabilitation facility, Mountain Manor, Brown has created "Sheriff Brown's Substance Abuse Program." Catchy name. Serious program.

Starring in mid-July, the public-private partnership will provide intensive, on-site 60-day treatment programs for inmates at the detention center.

So much for the problem of increased escapes.

And the program will require $0 -- count them, zero dollars -- out of taxpayers' pockets. The cost to inmates is only $300.

Brown expects 20 enrollees to participate in the first session of the pilot program. The experiment will continue for 18 months to two years and then will be evaluated,

His campaign slogan was "Keep your taxes down -- Vote for Brown." The drug-abuse program isn't the only wayhe's tried to meet that challenge.

This spring he noticed that the jail needed a fresh coat of paint. Unfortunately, the county coffers were bare. So the sheriff got the job done using prisoners and saved the citizens close to $17,000 to boot.

The jail is not the firstthing this man has painted. Brown has made a habit of restoring old homes. His first was on Federal Hill in Baltimore, where being a police officer was a family tradition.

Brown's father, a World War I veteran, joined on his return from the trenches and retired in 1942. Brown's brother, who participated in the Allied landing in Normandy, joined in 1947. Brown joined in 1952, on his return from a tour in Korea.

In 1972, just five years before his retirement from the Baltimore City Police Department, Brown sold the Federal Hill home and moved to Carroll. The move was at least in part a response to a dream hisfather had never been able to fulfill -- "a 10-acre farm in the country." For his father, says Brown with regret, "Times were hard."

Brown's first home in Carroll was on West Main Street in Westminster. After restoring that residence, the sheriff moved briefly to a small farm, like the one in his father's dream.

Currently, he is single-handedly renovating the former toll house in Uniontown, a project oneof his brothers described recently as looking like the aftermath of "the London Blitz."

His flair for decor is evident in his observations regarding random-width floor planks and the effects of certain window treatments on the light and color of a room. One hardly expectsaesthetic observations from a burly ex-cop who has been a private detective, a private process server, an investigator for the public defender's office and the first bailiff hired by the Carroll County Circuit Court.

Maybe John Brown doesn't fit the stereotype of the tough-guy cop.

"Tomorrow never comes . . ." unless we make the things we want to happen happen, Brown believes.

A devotee of kosher fare, he opened John Brown's Deli on Westminster's Main Street between his police department retirement and his stint as a private eye.

"I just had to get that out of my system," he says.

Now the sheriff has turned his "tomorrow never comes" philosophy to addressing the problems he feels hinder the operation of his department.

Maybe he's not the typical tough-guy cop -- interior designer and restaurateur that he is and has been -- but his diverse interests and experience now focus on what he warmly insists is his No. 1 goal:

"I've got to keep my campaign promises," he says.

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