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The Education Beat

Brown balanced education and experience during law enforcement career

Ron Brown posing

From The Ichabod - Spring 2021
By Jeremy Wangler

Education and experience are key to moving up in almost any profession. For Ron Brown, he was able to have a rewarding career in law enforcement thanks to invaluable experience on the streets and advanced education in the classroom.

Brown, bs ’97, mcj ’14, was with the Topeka Police Department for 28 years, retiring in 2009 as a major and a division commander. He then became chief of the Topeka Public Schools Police Department and held that position for 10 years until retiring in summer 2020. On top of that, he was a member of the Marine Corps for 31 years, training Iraqi police among other things, and he was an adjunct criminal justice instructor at Washburn University for 20 years.

Brown took over the Topeka Public Schools police force at a time when they were starting to turn duties over to TPD. He revamped the agency and proved he and his officers were relevant, telling them their most important tool was their relationship with the kids.

“Part of that was just getting into the hallways and talking to the kids on a daily basis,” he said. “One of my favorite things to do, honestly, was to go to a preschool or an elementary school in a uniform because if you needed an ego boost for the day, that was the place to get it. You are a rock star in an elementary school or a preschool.”

Brown believes if police agencies want to be considered a profession, they must rise to the level of education expected by most professions – a college degree. When he started with TPD, he said only one officer had a master’s degree.

Now there are many, and there’s even a major with a doctorate. Nationwide, 30% of officers have at least a four-year degree and 5% have a graduate degree, according to a 2017 study funded by the Police Foundation.

But Brown didn’t want his students thinking they would be able to walk right into their dream job. Experience is still essential, as is continued education in your desired field.

“One of the questions I always ask my classes is, where do you see yourself in five years,” Brown said. “Some of them are pretty realistic and some are not. I'll explain to them that you have to be willing to do your time. You have to be on the streets as a patrol officer for a number of years before you move up the ranks. I got to do a lot of cool stuff. I was in charge of SWAT. I was in charge of narcotics. I did special operations. But it didn't start right at the beginning.”

Brown said the best part of his career was teaching and classroom interactions with Washburn students. He would gladly talk to them after class, write letters of recommendation or hire students as TPD interns.

“I always told students on my last day of class, ‘Our class is over, but our relationship is not. Here's my phone number. You call me any time you have questions, concerns, anything I can help you with.’”

Spring 2022 The Ichabod cover. Sculpture on the lawn north of Memorial Union

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Topeka, KS 66604 Phone: 785.670.4483