Longest-serving Ocoee police chief, Charles Brown, retires
After a 28-year career with the Ocoee Police Department, Chief Charles Brown made his final radio call and retired Jan. 22.
| 12:28 p.m. January 27, 2021
West Orange Times & Observer
With 12 years at the helm of the Ocoee Police Department under his belt, Charles Brown holds the title of the city’s longest-serving police chief.
Brown, an Ocoee resident, has spent nearly three decades serving the community he loves. Last year, though, he knew it was time to hand the reins over to someone else.
On Friday, Jan. 22, the former Ocoee chief of police hung up his uniform and made his final radio call, retiring after a 28-year career in law enforcement.
WILLING TO SERVE
Brown knew from the time he was in elementary school he wanted to be in law enforcement. After all, his entire family was service-oriented — his mother a teacher, his father in the U.S. Air Force, and one of his older brothers a police officer in the U.S. Army.
In fact, that brother inspired Brown to go into law enforcement. Throughout his school years, he took every opportunity to learn more about criminal justice.
“If there was a criminal-law class even in high school, I took it,” he said. “If we were doing a field trip, I made sure I could go to the sheriff’s office. ... I knew what I wanted to do.”
Growing up, many police officers he spoke to over the years encouraged him to get his degree before going into the profession. After graduating from Colonial High School in Orlando, he attended Valencia College. From there, he studied criminal justice and sociology at the University of Central Florida, from which he graduated in 1989.
Brown worked security at Walt Disney World for seven years. At that time, law-enforcement jobs were few and far between, he said. Then, in the 1990s, many agencies were beneficiaries of the COPS grant program, which allowed them to put more officers on the street.
“It really pushed law enforcement,” Brown said. “I got to know some of the law-enforcement officers (who) interact with the (Disney) security out there, and I believe it was there that someone told me that Ocoee was hiring.”
He was hired three months later, in November 1992. At that time, the department had about 30 officers and served 15,000 residents.
“The only four-lane road, I believe, was State Road 50 at the time,” he said. “Clarke Road was halfway under construction. Some of it was dirt, and some of it was still woods. You couldn’t go from Silver Star (Road) up to Clarcona-Ocoee (Road). There were still woods, and it wasn’t even developed. ... It grew fast, and basically, I was in the right place at the right time along the way.”
Today, the department has about 100 sworn officers and serves 50,000 Ocoee residents.
THROUGH THE RANKS
Brown was in both a community and a career he loved, and he was always prepared to move up through the ranks. In 1997, he was promoted to sergeant and worked as a patrol supervisor for all shifts while also managing the Field-Training Program. In 1998, he was transferred to the Criminal Investigations Department.
Five years later, in 2002, Brown was promoted to lieutenant and also was selected as Ocoee Police Officer of the Year. In 2006, he was promoted to deputy chief. In both of these roles, Brown worked in patrol operations overseeing the uniformed patrol function — including the traffic-enforcement unit, crossing guards and TAC unit.
Shortly after being promoted to deputy chief, the morale and experience at the department was declining, Brown said. After the chief who had promoted him was terminated, Brown believed it was important to select someone from inside the department as the next chief.
“I had multiple conversations with the city manager — he named me acting chief — and we basically explained to him that if he hired again from outside, many people would probably leave here because of the bad experience before that,” he said. “I volunteered — I was young, I’d only been here 16 years — and after a couple months of seeing that I was adding some stability to the department after what we’d been through, he named me the permanent chief in 2008.”
Just as Brown had watched the city grow, he also had the task of adapting the department to shifts in technology.
“The growth adds to how you combat crime, whether it’s technology or just being able to investigate crimes that happened outside of the area,” Brown said. “Those were some of the things we had to deal with as we were growing, and technology got more and more (advanced). … Being where we’re at — we’re at the Turnpike, S.R. 50, the 408, the 429 — all of those roads intersect in Ocoee, so we don’t just deal with the people that sleep here. We have to deal with the population that moves through here every day.”
Although growth can create challenges, it also created opportunities. One of the accomplishments of which Brown is most proud is the transformation from a local police department to a state-accredited agency in 2019.
One of Brown’s favorite parts of being chief was hiring and also watching his former squads get promoted over the years.
“When I started, I had a squad, and seeing that group of people now turning into the supervision and leadership today — from where we were when I was a sergeant — that’s really rewarding,” he said.
In fact, his last group of hires as chief all came by his retirement celebration Thursday, Jan. 21, to congratulate him and thank him for the opportunity to serve in Ocoee.
“I’ve been community focused, and our motto at the police department — which came from me — was being approachable and responsive,” he said. “A cop should always be approachable and be responsive to the needs of the community, and if they could do that all the time, then we were better off.”
For Brown, relationships are key factors in community interactions. He loved being involved in the community and served as committee member of the city of Ocoee’s Fall Music Festival; chairman of the Ocoee Police Officers’ and Firefighters Pension Trust; city of Ocoee Police and Fire Pension Board Chair; member of the Board of Directors for the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigations; Roper YMCA board member; and a member of Rotary Club of Ocoee.
He also cultivated another relationship early in his career when he met his wife, Tammy, 27 years ago at a local Walgreens while doing a walk-through on foot patrol.
Heading into retirement, he plans to focus on himself and his wife. However, Brown said he won’t be surprised if his car automatically turns into the police department parking lot whenever he’s nearby.
“If you have a good relationship with your community, they’ll continue to trust you,” he said. “The decisions you make, they’ll understand them better if we can educate and involve the community. I think our cops are great at that.”