It’s been nearly four months since Marian Brown was elected Dallas County Sheriff. She was appointed to the job on an interim basis when former Sheriff Lupe Valdez stepped down to run for governor in 2018. But Brown says it feels good to have the support of voters.
"This time it was the placement of the people saying, 'We think she can carry the load and we trust her to do so,'" Brown said.
A native of Dallas County, Brown said she never imagined being sheriff.
"No, never. In fact I was not ever anticipating being in law enforcement. Period," Brown said.
After graduating from the University of Texas at Arlington, she thought she’d do a brief stint as a police officer in Duncanville. That was 30 years ago.
"Still in my system, I guess," she said with a smile.
Brown has broken many barriers in her long career. She was the first female black police officer in Duncanville and is now Dallas County’s first black sheriff.
"I realize that means it puts a large load on me to carry because that means that I have to make sure that the door not only is open for someone else, but that it remains open," she said.
Brown recently notched an important success when the Dallas County Jail passed its most recent state inspection. She is well aware of the jail’s history. Years ago, conditions were so bad that the U.S. Justice Department intervened.
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"We have been nowhere near that, and we don’t plan to ever go back to that again," Brown said.
Looking forward, Brown said employee training is her top priority.
"Our people need to know their jobs better. I think that when individuals know their jobs better that they take pride in doing their jobs," Brown said.
She is also in the process of reevaluating various programs in the department, but was not ready to reveal any possible changes.
Brown did not shy away from talking about difficult challenges. Her strategy for healing frayed relations between law enforcement and the black community is straightforward.
"Talking to one another. Communicating with one another. Engaging one another," Brown said.
As part of that effort, Brown said she plans to expand the department’s participation in the National Night Out program.
Through it all, Brown draws strength and guidance from her deep Christian faith.
"It's what drives me. It's what teaches me how to treat people. How to treat employees. How to treat the people who are held in our facilities. Because my faith says that grace and mercy should always exist," Brown said.
As she sets out on her first full term, Brown hasn’t thought much about how long she sees herself doing the job she just won.
"I don’t know. But I suspect that when the time is right that I'll know that it's time for me, that I've done what I was sent here to do, and what I was called here to do, and I'll release it at that point. But who knows when that will be?"
Brown now has four years to think about it before she'll have to stand for re-election in 2022.