Behind the Badge

5th Annual Lake County Back the Blue and Red Walk

Photos from the 5th Annual Back the Blue and Red Walk. Organizer Shannon Cook has been supporting law enforcement since 2019 with this walk. This year, firefighters were added to the event, and the name was changed. PHOTOS: Bonnie Whicher/Special to Inside Lake

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Meet A Public Information Officer: Lauren Brown

The following story was previously published on Lake Legal News.

As a young boy watching airplanes at North Perry Airport in Pembroke Pines in South Florida, Eustis Police Officer Lauren Brown imagined one day he would be flying one of those planes, but happening upon a vehicle crash changed everything.

Born in Jamaica, Brown, 35, moved to Fort Lauderdale when he was only 10 years old. “My parents wanted to get out of there. [They] wanted to give me a better life,” Brown tells Lake Legal News. He had a love of airplanes and wanted to be a pilot, even building model airplanes as a child. Being a law enforcement officer was not something he planned on. “That was not really on my radar at all.”

Brown was studying aerospace around 2007 and was driving home when he drove up on the wreck. “I was looking at this wreck and [I wanted] to help,” Brown explains to LLN. “That urge to help people is what drives me.” It was after that he switched from aerospace to criminal justice and received a degree from Broward College.

His urge to help people and charming personality make him a great fit for two roles at the Eustis Police Department — community relations officer and public information officer (PIO.) “I wear two hats,” Brown said, “community relations and public information officer.”

As community relations officer, Brown is out in the community at different events and gets to know the residents he serves. “People get to interact with a uniformed officer,” he said, “I get out of the car and shake their hands; I want to hear their stories. That’s one of the big benefits.” Brown feels his position has repaired old friendships between the department and the community and created new ones. “It’s created a lot of bridges.”

Brown is also the man behind the department’s Facebook page. He posts many different things from suspect photos to public service announcements. In January, he began posting as his alter ego, Major Trooper, donning a Star Wars’ storm trooper mask— a recent gift from his younger sister. Major Trooper has different rules when Chief Gary Calhoun is out of town, including Rule No. 4: “The only donuts that will be allowed are glazed and sprinkled. Sprinkles are for winners.” The department’s Facebook followers seem to be having fun being silly with Brown. Many of the Major Trooper posts have dozens of comments and shares.

In his role as PIO, Brown is the liaison between the media and the police department. He has to prepare press releases, answer the tough questions asked of him by the media and sometimes get in front of a live camera. He was thrust in front of several print media outlets and numerous television cameras for a major press conference when Capt. Gary Winheim was shot in December 2019. “I’ve always known at some point I’d have to get in front of the cameras—can’t hide behind press releases forever,” he tells LLN.

Brown believes his different roles both in law enforcement and working with law enforcement have helped him. He began his career at the Broward County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) as a community service officer, a civilian position that entailed taking reports, crime scene investigation and crash reports. “Nothing in progress,” Brown explains to LLN, ”just after-the-fact stuff.”

After a new sheriff (the infamous Scott Israel) was elected in 2012, BCSO suffered numerous cutbacks and Brown was laid off. He put in applications at several agencies and was hired at the Lake County Sheriff’s Office as a crime scene investigator. He worked there for four years and during that time attended the law enforcement academy. He went to school at night while working days and completed his training.

He was hired by the Eustis Police Department five years ago. Brown said his CSI experience helps him a lot as an officer. He can collect his own evidence and dust for prints; having both the patrolman’s point of view and seeing the importance of the evidence gives him a complete advantage, Brown notes.

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