Lieutenant hangs up handcuffs after 50 years

Milaca – Lt. Jerry Brown leaves his position as the assistant jail administrator at Mille Lacs County March 31 and said he’ll not be one to sit home drinking coffee and watching the “The Price is Right.” He said he has several options – including a job offer on a cattle farm – and may well have time to retire from one more career in his life.
Brown will wrap up 50 years in law enforcement, which includes 17 years at the Mille Lacs County Jail and 25 years with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. He’s worked at several incarceration facilities across the country, including opening new ones, and he’s trained many correctional officers.
Brown’s first job in law enforcement was as a military policeman with the Air Force in Vietnam starting in 1967.
“I always had pets and enjoyed dogs,” he said. “I wanted to get into K-9 and that was a way to get started.”
When he arrived overseas, he was paired with a German shepherd named Satan 2B, which upon meeting Brown, promptly growled. He said he proceeded to sit by the dog’s kennel, reading a book aloud and feeding the animal treats until he could reach in and get the animal on a leash.
Man and dog became friends and performed sentry and patrol duties together. Brown said it was extremely difficult to leave the dog behind when he went home from Vietnam, and he’s glad to know about programs now that bring dogs home with their handlers.
Brown is not surprised by all the different kinds of services dogs can render, such as therapy, alerting people to diabetic and epileptic dangers and working in law enforcement. He said he learned a lot from the dogs with which he worked while he was in the military police.
He knows this saying is true: “The education goes up the leash and down the leash.”
Brown was assigned to missile duty in Minot, North Dakota, before his Air Force service ended. He said he remembers filling out the “dream sheet,” which is the enlisted person’s preferred places to work. Brown said he listed his home – Florida – as well as a few other warm states, but North Dakota is where they sent him.
Once out of the Air Force, Brown returned to Florida and got his first job in civilian law enforcement doing identification. He said a friend of his worked in the prison system in Tallahassee and talked him into applying, which led to three years working in that part of Florida and then a transfer to Miami to be a counselor.
After Miami, he worked in Sandstone for three years as an operations lieutenant and special investigative supervisor before he went out to Sheridan, Oregon, to help open a new prison that housed offenders up to a level 4. He said the system always selected a mix of experienced and new people when opening a facility.
Brown said he long ago lost count of how many jails he’s been inside for inspection, assessment or other kinds of work. He said the most difficult part of training others is getting staff members to understand “who and what they are dealing with.”
The tall, seasoned Brown said inmates can be mentally and physically manipulative, so jailers must be savvy and always aware. Their training entails 80 hours of classroom learning and then they team up with a partner for a month or two until they’re deemed ready to go on their own. Some of the lessons prison and jail workers learn are communication techniques as well as pressure points and takedown methods.
Brown said, “The best tool of any law enforcement person is their ability to de-escalate situations verbally,” though other techniques are also needed.
Other skills he has taught include inmate supervision, problem resolution, report writing, rape prevention, crisis response, first aid and other classes. Brown is an instructor at the Camp Ripley academy and part of its training committee, plus he helped develop a course on ethics.
Highlights shine along the path
Brown remembers a difficult period near Rapid City when construction of a tribal juvenile detention center was the goal. The arduous project took three years to establish and was hard to staff, but he said it was good to finally open it.
Much of Brown’s career was spent training and traveling, and he said what he’ll miss most are all the great people with whom he’s worked. He said he had a lot of great mentors, he has tried to repay that favor and he always enjoys hearing when one of his tips helped someone along the way.
Around the time he’d reached about as high as he could in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Brown was traveling and stopped into Milaca for lunch at a café with a friend. While they ate, he perused the local newspaper and saw that Mille Lacs County had an opening. Seventeen years later, he is retiring from the jail’s commanding officer position.
Brown has enjoyed collecting different law enforcement patches from the people and places he’s worked with and visited. He has a huge display that he says doesn’t hold half of them. One of his favorite law enforcement collectibles is an authentic London Bobby helmet like the London, England, police wear, which he came across on the reservation of a Cheyenne Indian friend.
He said he can’t really say his career has been work because he’s enjoyed it so much, but he probably won’t miss the politics. A lot changed since the days when he did reports on a manual Royal typewriter, and Brown feels fortunate to have experienced the career.
He lives in Foley and has five children and five grandchildren who are scattered around the country. He said he and his wife, Lora, plan to do some traveling, including Florida and Italy this year.
The soon-to-be-former jailer said he looks forward to life’s next chapter but admits it has been strange to make plans for the future without first having to ask for the time off.