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By Troy Treasure, NEMOnews Media Group
SALISBURY – Childhood curiosity led to Chris Brown’s interest in police work.
Growing up in Mendon during the 1970s, Brown was fascinated with the idea of carrying a gun and driving a car fast.
Fast-forward to 1999. Reality set in. A year into undercover work for the North Missouri Drug Task Force, Brown found himself in a crisis.
“I had a guy put a hit on me and we moved the family out of the house,” Brown recalled recently. “We had an informant embedded in the group.
“The FBI got involved,” Brown continued. “We were able to get him picked up before he did anything.”
Brown became director of the task force in the mid-2000s. Today, he still serves as agency director on a part-time basis. Brown became Chariton County 911 director in 2013.
The task force covers 11 counties including Randolph and Chariton to the south. The western boundary is Linn, Sullivan and Putnam. Among other member counties are Adair, Clark, Knox and Scotland.
In 1989, Brown entered law enforcement as a matter of recourse. He planned to serve 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps but suffered a physical injury. Returning home, he stopped by the Chariton County Sheriff’s Department and visited with Sheriff Steve Clark.
“I got hired that day on the spot,” Brown recalled. Then, it was on to the University of Missouri Law Enforcement Training Institute.
“Around 1989-90 is when meth(amphetamine) hit the scene really hard,” Brown said. “It was cheap and easy to make, especially in rural areas where anhydrous ammonia was so easily available. You could get the recipe off the internet.
“You had all these knuckleheads out there basically trying it out,” he continued. “Some would blow themselves up because they didn’t know what they were doing.”
Brown recalled a time when as many as nine labs a week were busted.
“When I say labs, it’s not like beakers and Bunsen burners, we’re talking 5-gallon buckets, wooden spoons and Pyrex dishes with hot plates,” he said.
As one might expect, high-intensity situations arise combating illegal drug trade.
“I’ve always told guys that come to work for me, ‘If you ever go out and do a deal and you’re not scared, you need to quit doing deals,’” Brown explained. “Having said that, you have to contain it.
“I’ve been in houses with several Hispanics speaking Spanish that I don’t speak, talking with guns and dope lying out on the table,” he continued. “You get really nervous. You don’t know if they’re going to rob you or whatever.”
Drug challenges are also nerve-wracking. It’s a tactic in which the officer is offered a line or joint to determine if he or she is a cop.
Role-playing exercises during training are crucial.
“I don’t want to say too much but there are ways around it,” Brown said. “Quite honestly, if someone points a gun at me and tells me to snort that line, I’m going to snort that line, then call my superior and say what do I do now because it was either die or do this.”
Brown admitted levity can often be a good thing in his line of work. He was asked about drug mules who drive 20 miles per hour over the speed limit or, for example, operate a vehicle with expired tags.
Brown’s response was similar to “Dumb Crook News” segments discussed on “The John Boy and Billy” syndicated radio program.
“The stupidity of some of these (people) is just amusing,” Brown answered. “We talk about that among ourselves on a daily basis.
“We have a joke among law enforcement that we only catch the dumb ones,” he continued. “The smart ones are driving the speed limit; they’re making sure all their equipment works.”
Brown pondered aloud about the task force’s future and the politics that will determine its funding.
“I’m deeply concerned, especially now with this whole de-fund the police thing,” Brown said. “I’m concerned for our communities, our people and our officers.”
Brown said his greatest disappointment is with the court system.
“It’s frustrating when you arrest somebody, you’ve got a community that’s saying this house, this house, this house, we bust this house and the next day they are out walking the streets,” Brown said. “We can only do so much. We can only make the case and then it’s kind of out of our hands from that point on.”
Brown thanked those local agencies within the task force for help toward common good.
“I work for Wayne Winn when I’m in Scotland County. When I’m in his area, he’s the one that’s going to get the brunt of anything I did wrong,” Brown offered, as an example. “Wayne’s been great to work with.”
“Chris has always been approachable to me since I was elected Sheriff in 2012,” Knox County’s Allen Gudehus said in an email. “He tells us to not hesitate contacting the drug task force for assistance on any type of investigation or warrant.
“When you are a small department, that is very much appreciated,” Gudehus added.
“There are officers finding informants for us and helping us get a case started,” Brown concluded. “Have there been bumps and bruises? Absolutely. But overall, it’s been a great experience.”