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Pooler Magazine

Right at home: Mutual Admiration Between Pooler Police Chief and Community

Right at home: Mutual Admiration Between Pooler Police Chief and Community

Story by Stephen Prudhomme
Photos by Leidy Lester


Much has changed since Ashley Brown was growing up in Pooler in the latter quarter of the 20th century. It’s experienced explosive growth in the past 10 years—Brown used to hunt deer at the site of Tanger Outlet.

What remains unchanged is that Brown still lives in Pooler. Instead of hunting deer, however, he’s on the prowl for lawbreakers.

Brown, 51, is the Pooler police chief. He was appointed to the position while serving on the Pooler City Council. Prior to that, Brown worked with the Savannah Police Department as a patrolman, detective and in various other capacities for 24 years.

Coming Home

Although he enjoyed working in Savannah, Brown dreamed of being the police chief in his hometown. His dream became a reality, and five years later he feels right at home.

“My family’s been here since the late 1800s,” Brown said. “I live in my great-grandmother’s home. This is home.”

Brown said he thought he was a good police officer, but there was a learning curve when he became police chief.

“It was a big change for me,” he said. “I’m an administrator, manager… There was a lot to learn. It took two years to reach the point where I wanted to be.”

In response to Pooler’s growth, the department staff has expanded to 80. In the past five years, the number of police officers has increased from 41 to 65. Brown said he has an extremely good staff with great ideas. “I’m not a one-man staff,” he said. “We’re a team.”

That team includes Sgt. James S. Self, administrative services supervisor. He’s worked with Brown for over five years.

“He has demonstrated professionalism, dedication, and support to his officers and civilian staff,”

Self said. “Chief Brown is a forward-thinking chief who focuses not only on the current state of the police department and city but also on the future.  Chief Brown stands behind the City of Pooler’s motto: Pride, Family and Honor.”

The chief is very outgoing on both a professional and personal level, Self added, noting he guides him in his position as administrative services supervisor through knowledge and lessons he’s gained through his lengthy career in law enforcement. Brown’s made a positive impact outside the department as well.

“In the community, Chief Brown is well-liked and takes the opportunity to interact with the public, whether it is a local convenience store or shopping mall.”

Donnie Tuten is owner of Chatham Classic Homes in Pooler. He’s known Brown for 15 years and recalled how the latter jumped in the Savannah River in uniform and saved two people from drowning during a St. Patrick’s celebration along River Street.

“Ashley’s an outstanding guy,” Tuten said. “He takes a lot of pride in his work and knows all the families and their history. He’s a real asset to the community. There’s not much crime here. If there’s low crime, business will thrive. The Pooler Police Department helps my business.”

Surprisingly, given the city’s expansion, crime has not kept pace. Brown said they’ve maintained the “baseline.” Shoplifting, he noted, makes up half of the crime. To combat this, Brown said he’s added staff for greater visibility and faster response time and pays attention to crime stats and locations and makes the necessary adjustments.

Car break-ins remain a problem. The countermeasures are tried and true. “Lock the car and hide your belongings,” Brown said.

Working Hard From Day One

Cpl. Nicholas Heintzman has been a member of the Pooler Police Department for over five years. He joined shortly before Brown was appointed police chief.

“From day one, Chief Brown took steps towards making it the greatest department in the county,” said Heintzman, a member of the patrol division who worked for a sheriff’s department and small town police department before coming to Pooler. “Chief Brown exhibits all the qualities that a leader should have and believes in his officers. He is a shining example of how hard work and dedication can result in accomplishing major results.”

Heintzman added Brown knows every person in the office by name and makes it known that they are a family and anyone can go to him for advice and his door is always open. His ability to relate to people extends to the community.

“I do not believe there is a single resident of Pooler who does not know who Chief Brown is,” Heintzman said. “Many times, while speaking to citizens, I will be asked, ‘How is Chief Ashley doing.’ That question is usually followed up by a story from before he was the chief. He is never afraid to do the hard work and even cut down a few trees after a hurricane came through.”

Teaching Moments

Police work, as with any other job, won’t be performed without a hitch. Errors will be made by men and women charged with protecting and defending the public it serves. Instead of castigating his staff for mistakes, Brown uses them as teaching moments.

“He has always shown me that he believes in me through the good and bad,” Heintzman said. “He shows that mistakes are learning experiences that you use to better yourself. Working for Chief Brown has been an absolute honor and I look forward to many more years to come.”

Family History of Service

Brown has been around law enforcement most of his life. His father was a retired police lieutenant, while his stepfather was the police chief in Port Wentworth.

 “I was around it,” Brown said. “I loved the stories.”

After graduating from Groves High School, Brown attended Armstrong Atlantic State University. He said he was leaning toward a career in law enforcement but hadn’t committed to a major. That changed after taking a particular course during his freshman year.

“I took criminal justice as an elective,” Brown said. “That was the affirmation I needed to pursue a career in that field. I ended up getting my degree in criminal justice.”

Eighteen months after graduating from college, Brown joined the Savannah Police Department as a patrolman. That started a 24-year odyssey that had him working in all areas of the city and included three stints downtown.

“I liked it downtown,” Brown said. “I liked catching bad guys. That’s what you’re supposed to do - be productive and do the job you’re sent to do.”

Brown also worked homicide, undercover and, his favorite, bicycle patrol. “I liked being outside,” Brown said. “It was a great experience.”

Finding his Way Back to Pooler

In 2010, Brown said he was asked to apply for the job of Pooler’s police chief following the death of C.E.  “Butch” Chan but decided against it. “I wasn’t ready,” he said.

Eight years later, Brown, elected to Pooler City Council in 2016, was ready. Now that he’s back home and has the job of his dreams, Brown’s in no hurry to hang up his gun and holster.

“I won’t leave until I’m confident someone can take over,” said Brown, who away from work enjoys fishing and being a ‘professional goofball.’ “I’m invested in the department. I like having a hand in people’s lives and feeling good about where they live and continue to enjoy a quality life in Pooler.”