MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Ever since he was a kid, Don Brown knew he wanted to be a police officer.
He had always worked out, and knew he could do the physical part of being an officer, the academic work, and he knew how to shoot.
After talking with someone at the police academy, he discovered the Memphis Police Department would take him, as long as he could pass the tests — even at the age of 58.
That’s right. When most people are starting to think about retirement, Brown is starting a new career, hitting the streets of Memphis as an officer.
“That feeling never went away,” Brown said. “I always wanted to serve this community.”
It’s a story that started eight months ago at the Memphis Police Academy, the first time the rookies were introduced to Brown.
“You don’t really see that many people that are older like that, that already had a career to come and want to be a police officer, so it was pretty cool,” fellow officer Trevoris Bogan said.
For years, Brown put his dream on hold while life got in the way.
“You know, I went to college, got married and started having kids, it’s like, not a good time.”
So he put it off and took care of his family. He spent 30 years in the food business and retired two years ago.
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There were 85 cadets in Brown’s class. He was by far the oldest, but he still finished near the top of his class.
“It does push you,” Brown said. “You don’t understand sometimes why you’re having to do these push-ups or the flutter kicks or whatever, but there’s a reason to everything.”
Brown is the oldest “rookie” in recent memory, and some believe he might be the department’s oldest “rookie” ever.
“They would call me Uncle Brown, which I take as an endearing term, and it was, it was a great experience,” he said.
His family thought he was crazy.
“She worries of course and the kids do, but they’re glad I’m doing what I want to do,” he said.
But when the laughter faded, reality set in. A badge, a gun, is an enormous responsibility that occasionally comes at a tremendous cost.
“You know, if something were to happen tomorrow, today, whatever, I’m doing what I told them, I told my family: ‘I’m doing what I want to do.’ And so, I’m happy with it. I’m good with it.”
And his superior officers are good with it too, saying his age is not a disadvantage.
“I was actually excited to have someone that age,” MPD Lt. Jay Dorning said.
Older officers like Brown don’t require as much training because they’ve been trained their whole lives, he said.
“He has the personal skills because, in the days that we grew up, you actually had to communicate with people face-to-face, whether you talked to him on the phone, you didn’t have texting. So it makes him relate with the people in the city,” Dorning said.
Brown said the best part of the job is being out in the community, making a difference every day.
“I love the city of Memphis,” he said. “I’m telling you one thing I found out since doing this job, the people are really great. You know we see a lot of bad things on TV, and I’m telling you, the majority of the people that I run into are very supportive. It’s just been very rewarding for me.”
He only has one wish:
“I wish I had another life to give another 25 years. And maybe if I stay here another 25 years, I’ll be 83. I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes.”