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Sheriff Brown: Called to lead, serve

MATTHEW HIRST | 3/4/2019, 4:52 p.m.
Sheriff Marian Brown, the first African American sheriff of Dallas County, stated that her entire life has been preparing her ...
Sheriff Marian Brown addresses the community during the Masjid Al-Islam Groundbreaking Ceremony, December 2018. Masjid Al-Islam

“I don’t know that there was a magic moment though. It just kind of happened. I decided I’d give it a shot and a year into it, I was still working on what I call now, getting back to real life. At that point, I had decided that I needed to take this opportunity to visit with some people who worked with me, and the people in the community as well.”

In practice and experience, Brown understands Dallas County’s issues because she’s been on both sides – as a law enforcement officer and as a Black community member.

“We had a very close family member – we called her our cousin because when we were kids we called everybody that – who was put into the trunk of a car at the end of our street by her boyfriend and the car was set afire. I just remember thinking, ‘Oh my goodness. This stuff happens in our neighborhood? This is my home. What do you mean she’s in the trunk of a car?’”

This event was impactful and motivated Brown – along with a large number of African Americans – to fight valiantly for racial equality in the American prison system.

“I’ve spent many years involved in community relations, activities and community-oriented policing before everybody knew what it was.”

Brown recalled when the job of assembling Dallas’ first community-oriented policing task force ended up on her desk.

“I have an advantage in that I come from the Dallas community, so it’s easier. I’m not going to say it’s easy, but it’s easier for me, someone who grew up here, to go to the community and say, ‘Okay look, I need you to trust me on this. I know where you are, I’ve been where you are.’ I know that’s why when I talk to people, I tell them the things that I have experienced in my life. I grew up in a community that was bookended by what happened to Shavon Randle and Gabrielle Simmons. Right in the middle is where I grew up.

“So I’m able to say to people, I get it. I understand your distrust of the police department. I understand your concerns about what happens when someone is stopped. I get it because, in case they didn’t notice, I’m a woman of color. I want them to understand that, not only do I get it, but because I’m on this side and that side, I can bring the two sides together. I can help bridge the gap.”

Brown stated that the position doesn’t make her special, but it does come with a huge responsibility.

“Recently, I was at a restaurant and a gentleman walked up to me and said, ‘Excuse me, like, are you somebody or something?’ and I just looked at him. He said, ‘Because somebody has paid for your dinner and two other people said they wanted to do it.’ And I said, ‘No, I’m just the sheriff.’ And that kind of blew me away. That said to me that there were people watching me, and it’s a constant reminder to me that people are watching.”