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Wednesday 12 December 2018
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The Man Behind The Badge : CHIEF ASHLEY BROWN

story by Kelly Harley     photos by Shelia Scott
The sleepy town of Pooler is no longer sleepy and without a doubt is growing, and we all know with growth comes change. One recent change the city has experienced is directly related to how its police department is run. There is a new chief in town and he has set out to make a big impact on his department and his community. The beauty behind it all is that Chief Ashley Brown is a Pooler native and has deep ties to the community in which he lives and serves.
The Man Behind the Badge
The average tenure of a police chief is less than five years. Pooler’s police chief, Ashley Brown, has plans to outlast that statistic. He also has big plans for the Pooler Police Department. March 26, 2018, marked Chief Brown’s first day on the job; however, before he was even sworn in, he was working. “I started coming in here every day and learning one or two things each day I was here,” says Chief Brown. “That was an advantage because on my first day in uniform, I had a list of things I wanted to start working on.” In a little less than four months, he has proven he is determined to take on the challenge.
Chief Brown says one of the things about the department is that strong, continuous leadership helped make it what it is today. Butch Chan served as chief for more than 24 years before passing away while on vacation, and Mark Revenew was chief seven years before retiring and moving on to serve as Savannah Police Department’s interim police chief. “Things here didn’t need to be straightened out. I just have a way of doing things differently,” says Chief Brown.
His different style is in one way related to where he came from. Chief Brown was with the Savannah Police Department for 24 years, serving on various departments such as Undercover Vice, Homicide and Patrol. While there, he was promoted to captain and was in command of patrol precincts as well as a variety of specialized units. He says much larger departments have more challenges both internally and externally. Having years of experience serving on a larger department has allowed him the unique opportunity to make preparations to avoid issues when large-department scenarios pop up in Pooler.      “My last two precincts were bigger than this department. I have seen what this department is going to be,” says Chief Brown. “One of the things we are doing here is implementing a plan for growth. We don’t want to need an 80-person department and only have a 50-person department, so we will grow every year. We are preparing for scenarios that Pooler Police has never seen before. Our best strategy is to be waiting on it when it gets here.”
Pooler’s Policing is Changing
When it comes to growth, Chief Brown says Pooler is seeing more crime. He says they are investigating more shoplifting cases; more property crimes; more car break-ins and thefts; and more traffic accidents. Of course, that’s inevitable with additional residents, visitors and businesses. Per the 2010 United States Census Bureau, Pooler’s total population was just over 19,000. Today, the census puts the population at nearly 24,000. If you drive down Pooler Parkway, you’ll notice that where every green space used to be is paved and a new store or restaurant sits on the once tree-filled area. The growth is making for a much larger area for officers to handle.
One of the ways Chief Brown is handling the growth is by restructuring. “We are reconstructing our areas of responsibilities and zones (beats),” says Chief Brown. “We are also doing more special operations such as shoplifting intervention at the Tanger Outlets and identifying where there are the most traffic accidents in order to determine ways to get people to slow down.” Chief Brown says plans are also in place to increase the number of zones Pooler has. This will shrink the size of the area of responsibility for each officer. “The response time should be quicker because there will be less area to cover and officers will be able to ride through their areas more often,” says Chief Brown.
Chief Brown says residents are already noticing some of the changes. Whether he’s at the grocery store or barber shop, people stop and talk to him. He is humbled when he hears that he is doing a great job and pleased that people can already see a difference. “I’ll have people ask me, ‘What have you told those officers of yours?   Man, the word is out, don’t speed through Pooler,’” laughs Chief Brown.
Style of Leadership
Chief Brown recognizes that the department is a young department, which means leadership is even that much more important. Good leadership that is. “I’ve learned a lot from bad leadership because bad leaders stick. I told myself if I’m ever the boss, I’m never going to be like that,” says Chief Brown. He says he’s sticking to his word. Chief Brown is committed to having an informed department.
Currently, there are 51 sworn officers and each morning Chief Brown can be found in the squad room, talking to officers and getting to know them and any issues or concerns they may be facing. He has also implemented bi-weekly command staff meetings. “One of the complaints from officers is not knowing what is going on and what the plan is,” says Chief Brown. “I want the officers to help me run this department. I don’t want a yes-team. I want officers to always give me their opinions and let me know if there is a better way we could be doing things.”
When asked about his style of leadership, Chief Brown calls himself a facilitator. As the chief, he creates the assignments and he comes to work each day and looks at his to-do list. Then he finds ways to reach the goals he has established. He also listens, a quality that many leaders often lack. “I listen to what my officers need to do a better job and try to provide it to them,” says Chief Brown. “I listen to the community and try to give them what they need to solve their problems. I’m really a simple person,” says Chief Brown. He says the best thing to do is to make it as simple as you can.
For the Love of the Community
Having essentially lived in Pooler his entire life, he graduated from Groves High School and Armstrong State University with a degree in Criminal Justice, Chief Brown knows what it’s like to love where you live and what it’s like to have a servant’s heart. Despite his law enforcement duties, he served on Pooler City Council as a councilmember for more than two years before having to vacate his position to accept his role as chief. “I learned a lot about how the city works. I was able to build relationships with all the key players, which has helped make things easier in my new role. I’m able to get the support I need to help grow this department,” says Chief Brown.
Chief Brown recalls when he would drive home after his shift at Savannah Police Department. He says he would drive in from Interstate 16 and feel the relief when he was finally in Pooler. “If I hit the lottery and won millions of dollars, I’d still be here,” says Chief Brown. That says a lot about his commitment to his hometown and his new duties as the man in charge of the police department. “My goal is to stay here until I want to retire,” adds Chief Brown. As for those retirement plans, he says they haven’t even crossed his mind.
Chief Brown is married to his wife Abby, who is an investigator with the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office, and they have four children.




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