Alan Brown was hired as Southwest Harbor's police chief in 2015. PHOTO COURTESY OF SWH POLICE DEPT

Southwest Harbor police chief prioritized others

SOUTHWEST HARBOR Anyone who worked in law enforcement over the last 30 years in Hancock County knew Alan Brown, who, to many, was simply called “Brownie.”

Brown, who died unexpectedly last Friday at the age of 51, was hired as the Southwest Harbor police chief in 2015. 

“Our community is heartbroken by the loss of Police Chief Alan Brown,” according to a statement released by the town over the weekend. “Alan is the exemplar of what law enforcement officers should be. His earnest facade gave way to a caring and insightful mind. He was dedicated to doing things the right way, even if that made more work for him, and he always placed the needs of his officers and our community before his own.”

Brown, a resident of Ellsworth, was at a family camp on Green Lake late Friday morning when he collapsed. 

Southwest Harbor Police Chief Alan Brown sits with a Pemetic Elementary School student last school year, before the pandemic. PHOTO COURTESY OF PEMETIC ELEMENTARY

While he was attending college, Brown began his career in law enforcement with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office. Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Police Chief Jim Willis was working with the Sheriff’s Office at the time. 

“We go back a long way,” said Willis, who was Brown’s supervisor at one point during their time together at the county agency. “We used to work at night, and we’d play golf during the day.”

When Willis left the county and went to work at the Mount Desert Police Department, he and Brown continued working together, although they were focused on different aspects of law enforcement. 

“He was a professional, held in high regard,” said Willis, adding that his children and Brown’s son, Justin, grew up together. “We’ve always been connected. We talked several times a week. Most recently, we had both been tasked with combining dispatching services. 

“He was a friend, straight up.”

It was early in his career when Brown began working on Mount Desert Island as a young deputy patrolling Tremont for the Sheriff’s Office. He met his wife, Stacie, while working as a deputy. 

His law enforcement family extended into most agencies throughout Hancock County.

“He was a great guy and dedicated to helping the citizens of Hancock County,” said Ellsworth Police Sgt. Shawn Willey, who has known Brown for about 17 years. “He was proud of the changes he had made to the Southwest Harbor Police Department while he was there. He was just an all-around nice guy.”

Southwest Harbor’s interim police chief, Mike Miller, said the news was a shock to those at the department. A lieutenant under Brown for five years, it was difficult for Miller to speak about the loss. 

“It’s been a real pleasure working with Alan; he was a real professional chief,” he said. “He supported his officers and dispatchers. I think he did a great job in the five years he was here. The Police Department and the town are better for it.”

Town Manager Justin VanDongen worked for the last two years with Brown as chief.

“I am unable to fully express what a loss this is to our community and me personally,” he said in an email sent over the weekend. 

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley covers the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands. Send story ideas and information to [email protected]