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Officer visits Moscow

Christina Proctor

George Brown was asleep when he got the call from the other side of the world.

“George, you are coming to Russia,” the caller announced.

A little less than four months later Brown, a commander with the South Lake Tahoe Police Department, was on his first overseas trip. His destination – Moscow. The trip would include visits to some of the country’s national treasures, meetings with heads of state, civil leaders, law enforcement, and interviews with Russian media.



“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Brown said of his eight-day trip.

The invitation came from a friendship forged during the summer of 1997.



The police department hosted a Russian delegation from the Moscow Regional Police Department. The delegation chose to visit three California cities that they had working connections with. South Lake Tahoe connection’s revolved around a diamond smuggling operation. Brown said the profits from the operation were traced to property purchases in South Lake Tahoe by Russian organized crime members. Brown is not sure of the status of that case now.

While the Russian delegation was in the United States the South Lake Tahoe office and Moscow police signed a protocol in relation to matters of mutual interest between the two departments.

During the short visit Brown became friends with Igor V. Koptelov, the group’s translator, and the two became correspondents. Koptelov was chosen to extend the late night phone invitation to Brown and Police Chief Dave Solaro.

Other commitments kept Solaro from accepting, so on June 19, Brown left with three other California law enforcement officers for Moscow.

“The value of them coming here and us going there is they you know who you’re dealing with,” Brown said. “It makes dealings easier and it was very educational. There were also relationships developed the previous year that I got to continue.”

Brown said he was impressed by the level of importance the Moscow Regional Police gave the Californians visit.

“Everywhere we went we had an escort. We were served banquets almost every meal, everything was first class,” Brown said. “In Moscow there is a definite separation between the haves and the have nots. We were with the haves.”

The men even got to meet three of Russia’s celebrities when three cosmonauts joined them for dinner one evening.

“One of them had returned recently from Mir,” Brown said.

The group was also taken to Star City, Russia’s training facility for cosmonauts.

Brown was also taken to several of the different bases covered by the Moscow Regional Police.

“The city itself has 1 million people. Their patrol area is immense. They have some of the same technology we have, but in other areas they are way behind us,” Brown said, adding that they proudly displayed an evidence gathering kit that was woefully behind anything the South Lake Tahoe unit is equipped with.

“They have the same problems we have, but in greater numbers,” Brown said. “They have 55,000 police officers in Moscow. They had 8,000 vehicle collisions in the last year and 25 percent were fatalities. That’s a very high number.

“We share the same mission when it comes to law enforcement, but because of our historical differences we go about it in a different way. We place a greater value on civil rights. I think they’re trying to resolve that. These guys are good guys.”

Brown said recognized that his Russian counterparts had many societal problems working against them.

“The city is sorely depressed. They haven’t developed a tax base so the infrastructure is literally falling apart,” Brown explained.

Brown talked of many government buildings in disrepair, but the country is working to save its national treasures. The group toured Red Square and the Trinity Saint Sergey Cathedral in Sergeyev-Posad.

“I’m grateful that I got the chance to go,” Brown said. “It was an unbelievable experience.”

Brown said South Lake Tahoe’s contacts with Moscow aren’t fading. Not long ago Brown’s phone rang again in the middle of the night. It was Igor telling him he would be invited back.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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