Officer Brown retires
The stakeout of a drug den from the camper shell of a pickup. The single-handed arrest of three kidnappers counting ransom money in a cabin at Tahoe Meadows. The bust of heroin dealers as they cut up 4 ounces of product in a living room.
These are memories Cmdr. George Brown looks back on with pride. He retires Friday after 31 years with the South Lake Tahoe Police Department.
Brown, 54, said he has relished the opportunity to serve a community he has loved since he was a boy. He has called South Shore home since he was 9 when he began working summers at his uncle’s drug store at Bijou. When summer ended, he would head back to Oakland, where he was born.
There he worked part-time at his family’s other pharmacy, a 24-hour business in downtown Oakland. Brown dealt with all types of people from polite to cantankerous to drunk. He also got to know the policemen who had Day and Night Pharmacy as part of their beat.
“Watching their dedication to duty and their love of the job is really what inspired me to get involved,” Brown said. “I knew police work meant helping people and getting involved in solving problems. But certainly there’s no denying the lure of being involved in all the action.”
By 1968, after taking college courses and working in the front office of a manufacturing company, Brown took up with Berkeley’s reserve police force. The job fit and the drama of Berkeley in the ’60s was appealing.
But Tahoe called him.
“I really, really wanted to live here. I made a decision that whatever was going to allow me to live at Lake Tahoe I was going to do it.”
Hired on at the department in October 1970, three years after the city created its police force, Brown spent several years on patrol before he began investigating juvenile and sex crimes as a detective. His job soon switched to undercover narcotics enforcement.
Donning a handlebar mustache and large sideburns, he and other officers busted one of the first drug labs in South Lake Tahoe in 1978. A rental agent told police about “odd glassware” she had seen in the unit.
“We started looking at it and realized what we had was a methamphetamine lab,” Brown said of the rental unit on Alpine Drive in the Tahoe Keys.”I don’t think they got one batch of product produced before we took the place off. It’s about the community being aware and the community making us aware.”
In 1985, Brown was promoted to lieutenant, which today is synonymous with the rank of commander. The transition to administrative work was difficult, but he handled it.
“It’s certainly not what I envisioned myself doing in 1970,” he said.
But Brown could still tell his work was helping police officers and South Lake Tahoe.
Brad Bennett, chief of police and fire, said one of Brown’s biggest achievements was helping the department integrate technology.
“In the technology area he’s really taken the bull by the horns. Sometimes government and law enforcement are slower to change. Thanks to his great work he’s gotten records, management and dispatch up to speed,” Bennett said. “I’m really going to miss him, but I know he’ll stay in the area.”
He’ll be in the area, but he’ll be golfing, biking, sailing or in the garage on amateur radio to Russia or Japan. If not that, he’ll be doing the dishes, dusting or vacuuming, or whatever his wife of 21 years, Patty, tells him to do.
“I don’t feel like I’m crossing the finish line, I view it as approaching the starting line,” Brown said. “A lot of people who’ve walked out that door say they are going to miss the people but they’re not going to miss the work. But I am truly going to miss both. I love what I do.”
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