After nearly a quarter century of patrolling the streets, testifying at trials, and counseling students, "Downtown" Sandra Brown is stepping down.
Lt. Brown, whose energetic presence and distinguished career made her one of the department's most popular and well-known officers, received a standing ovation and a special resolution Monday night from the City Council. She is retiring at the end of this week.
The resolution, which Councilwoman Karen Holman read into the record Monday, cites her long list of assignments, including stints as a field-training officer, a traffic-team supervisor, a recruiting officer, community-relations officer and a bike officer -- an assignment that prompted the San Jose Mercury News to give her the moniker, "Downtown" Sandra Brown. The council resolution also praises Brown for her "genuine care for people" and "passion for youth."
Interim Public Safety Director Dennis Burns praised Brown Monday for being an "outstanding ambassador not only for city but also for police department." Brown, he said, is "someone who made everyone play better every day."
"(She is) probably the most recognized Palo Alto police officer in our recent history and one of the best known personalities around," Burns said.
A well-known presence in downtown Palo Alto who earned her nickname in the 1980s, while patrolling, Brown is lauded in the council resolution being "instrumental in the Department's problem-solving and community policing approach to crime and quality of life issues in the Downtown area" and for her "creative and inventive collaboration with the business community."
In accepting the council resolution, Brown thanked the volunteers at the Palo Alto Police Department and her colleagues, whom she praised for honorably serving the community even while getting disparaged by the city's vocal police critics. The citizens of Palo Alto, she said, can "sleep peacefully."
She also thanked Burns and her colleagues in the department for "all the adrenaline rushes and for the opportunity to lead and be led."
Former Mayor Vic Ojakian said he met Brown more than a decade ago, when he was on the City Council, and said he was "impressed with her and how she connected with the people in this town."
"I'm very grateful that she served on the force, and we are losing a real asset," Ojakian said.
Brown's departure is the latest in a department that has seen an exodus of experienced officers in recent months. Lieutenants Scott Wong and Douglas Keith and Sgt. Rebecca Lynn Phillips had all received council resolutions over the past month in recognition of their recent retirements.