Police chief seeks to bridge divide

Greg Browning works to lead Juneau's force through tough times

Posted: Monday, January 22, 2007

If you ask Greg Browning about the cases he remembers, he might tell you about the one back in Amarillo.

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Twenty years before he became Juneau police chief, Browning was a robbery detective in the Texas Panhandle town. Every time it snowed, an armed gang in ski masks would hit a bank. Browning chased lead after lead, until a tip led him and investigators to a house where they found the loot. They even found marked bills in a suspect's pocket.

"It taught me, you don't ignore small leads," Browning said. "It taught me persistence."

Browning, 51, will be using his skills and experience in Juneau this year as he leads the police force through difficult times. A change in shifts in 2005 from 12-hour days to 8-hour days caused an upset among officers. Brown inherited the problem when he became chief in May.

Now he wants to address what he described as the perception of a "dividing line" between police administration and employees. He said he will be developing a shift arrangement that works for the staff and serves the community.

"I'm doing everything I can to mend that fence so we can work as a team and improve morale," Browning said.

Officials with the Juneau police union did not return calls seeking comment, but officers have not been shy about expressing dismay with difficult schedules. Some named it as their reason for leaving the 52-officer force.

Browning moved to Juneau in 2000 to be assistant chief. He arrived with a bachelor's degree and master's degree in criminology from Florida State University, and 21 years of law enforcement experience in Texas. He came here as a seasoned veteran who had worked his way up to the rank of captain in a force with about 300 sworn officers.

But after decades in windy flatlands, the married father of two adult sons was ready for the mountains and the ocean of Alaska.

Browning came across as a "nice and honest guy" during his years in Amarillo, according to Amarillo Police Col. Robert Taylor. Browning's sharp wits landed him the prestigious job of captain of the patrol officers, while Taylor had to settle for captain of the division overseeing records and dispatching.

"He was a smart guy," Taylor said. "He beat me on the test by a few points and got to go to the uniform division."

Browning, a native of Albuquerque, N.M., had wanted to be a police officer since he was a teenager. The idea hit him while he was working at a hamburger stand that was popular with officers. He heard their stories and found them intriguing. One day, his car broke down, and Browning was given a ride home by one of the officers. They had a conversation that changed his life.

"We talked about how you can make a difference in peoples' lives," Browning said. "It lit a spark."

• Ken Lewis can be reached at ken.lewis@juneauempire.com.

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