Southwestern University chief of police
Deborah Brown, Southwestern University’s chief of police, is the only female chief the department has ever had. She joined the department as an assistant chief in 1994 and became chief a month later when the chief stepped down. Today she oversees the department’s six full-time officers as well as 20 contract officers from the Williamson County Sheriff’s Department, the Department of Public Safety and Georgetown Police Department who work off-duty as extra help on campus.
In her 32 years of law enforcement experience in Louisiana and Texas, Brown considers the job of campus police work “community policing at its best” because of the opportunities to speak to and interact with students.
How did you get into law enforcement?
I had a year and half left of pharmacy school in Louisiana. My parents went through a really bad divorce, and I had a 9-year-old little brother. I made the decision to drop out of school to help take care of him. The city of West Monroe, La., [was] looking for females, trying to broaden their department. My mom had been in communications before with police. I thought it’d be fun, and I just absolutely fell in love with it.
How did you begin working at SU?
I was the chief of police at East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, Texas. A new president came in, and they were trying to cut some programming. They decided to dissolve that police department, and I found myself without a job. I interviewed [at Southwestern], and I got the job in 1994 as the assistant chief of police.
What are the most common problems on campus?
You see those things that every 18- to 22-year-old goes through. We have alcohol issues, drug issues and sexual assault issues on our campus. In our little area we still have those things that college students are going to get involved in at some point. The good thing is that we have a great group of students that come here, but alcohol is kind of that thing that college students try.
What do you want people to know about campus police work?
The misconception I would want someone to know about university policing is we are police officers. I have veteran police officers here who have had [an] absolute successful police experience in many different ways. We come here not to put people in jail but to help our students learn how to be productive and responsible in the real world.
Have you had any challenges as the first female chief at SU?
I’ve encountered challenges my whole life as a female police officer. I started in 1981. Women weren’t police officers back then.
I’ve been challenged, I’ve been tested and as I got into being a chief, I really had to feel out my officers to see if they were willing and able to work under a female chief.
When I very first came to Texas, there were only 12 women in the entire state that were either chiefs of police or sheriffs. We got in at a time when I had to make sure that an officer under me was not going to demean me as their leader or try and undermine what I was doing. You had to weigh a lot of things being a female coming up the ranks. You’ve got to have tough skin, but if you let [officers] know what your mission is and you let them know you’re walking beside them, it matters not what your gender is.