SAN MARCOS — There’s a new sheriff in town. Meet Capt. Dave Brown, who recently took over command of the San Marcos sheriff’s substation.
And Brown isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.
He plans to stay in place between two and five years and retire in five years one way or another.
“I am going to sleep in, work on growing a beard and travel,” he said.
In the meantime, he said he will work to keep his portion of the county safe and livable.
“We have the second lowest crime rate of the 18 cities in the county (with a freeway),” he said. “I’m proud of that.”
And Brown said Cal State San Marcos has been named one of the safest universities in the state.
“That is determined by crime rate in the city where the university is located,” he said.
Poway comes in slightly higher as the county’s safest city.
His career path with the sheriff’s office began in 1991 when he worked at Vista’s juvenile hall and then at the county jail. Next he worked patrol in Vista and then all the way up to the command of a couple of substations, now including San Marcos proper with a population of nearly 100,000. The rest of his area of geographic responsibility is far flung, including Deer Springs, the Lawrence Welk area and Valley Center with four casinos in the area.
He thinks his job these days is rather low key including overseeing budgets, personnel, discipline and serving as a department head with the city. However, over the years, he has been in just about every level and job in the department.
He’s also done his time in organized crime.
“I can’t talk about it,” he said.
He did a three-year tour in homicide when he worked many high-profile cases.
“Chelsea King and Amber Dubois was my case,” he said.
As most county residents will remember in 2009 and 2010, two young girls were raped and killed and their remains were found later in shallow graves. John Albert Gardner, who was 30 at the time, was arrested in the deaths of both girls.
“He will be in for life,” he said.
Brown said he lost some sleep over those cases, especially when Amber’s body was discovered only two miles from his daughter’s school and she happened to be 14 at the time.
Three years was long enough to be in homicide, he said.
“You know what they say about a wheel barrow,” he said. “You can only fill it up so much.”
During his nearly 30 year-career, there have been changes in policing that have made it easier, he said.
“I would say that computers in patrol cars and facial recognition, which is hand-held and getting better all the time,” he cited as improvements.
He said he remembers learning for the first time that not everyone likes cops and the word came from a 4-year-old boy riding a Big Wheel. He and another officer were trying to get into a locked outer gate of an apartment building to answer a loud, glass-breaking, yelling, screaming domestic violence call.
They asked the small boy who was inside if he would open the gate for them.
“He asked, ‘Are you cops?’” Brown said. When they said they were, the little boy said, “’expletive’ cops,’ and road away on his Big Wheel.”
There were good days, bad days and days that still bring a chuckle, he said, like a finding a couple on a lovers’ lane “engaged in an act.”
Brown recalls asking for both their IDs and learning they had the same last name and the same address. These 70-year-old lovers had been married for nearly 50 years.
“It’s been a good ride and I have no regrets,” he said.
But when he is retired, there are things he will not miss.
“When I am retired I am not going to carry my phone everywhere even throughout the house,” he said. “I take it to the bathroom with me. I take into the shower and watch it while I shampoo my hair. You can’t miss calls. There are a lot of lives I am responsible for.”