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Jefferson County Probation Director Ed Brown retires after 37 years on the job

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When Jefferson County Probation Director Edward E. Brown started with the department in 1977, he had big plans.

“I came in thinking I would change Jefferson County overnight,” he said.

And while that sea change may not have come to pass, when Mr. Brown retires today after 37 years, he can rest assured that he has left his mark on his own corner of the world.

“I’m very proud to have hired him. He’s really advanced the department with technology and new equipment,” said former Probation Director Kenneth F. Baker, the man who gave Mr. Brown his first job in the field.

Mr. Baker was the department’s first director and served in that capacity for 29 years, from 1962 to 1991.

Mr. Baker said that Mr. Brown’s connections to the community, character, school record and gregarious personality made him an attractive candidate.

Mr. Brown is a 1973 graduate of Indian River Central School, Philadelphia, and a 1977 criminal justice graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Over time, Mr. Brown has seen more change than just the fashions.

The way the department works, the types of clients with whom the department works and the methods the department uses to serve the community have all changed dramatically.

Mr. Brown also has had time to enact a few changes himself, including developing the Juvenile Intensive Supervision Program, developing the drug testing program for the department, establishing the Electronic Home Detention Program, developing the Family Court Unit and establishing DNA collection procedures.

Since its inception, the Probation Department has grown from three to 40 employees, including nine clerical staff, three supervising probation officers and 27 probation “line” officers and senior probation officers.

The department supervises 1,244 clients and conducts more than 900 presentence investigations a year for the court system.

In the early years, supervision was based on “trial and error, gut feeling and experience,” according to Mr. Brown.

“Now it has evolved to where we’re using evidence-based practices and evidence-based risk assessments,” he said.

Probation officers also began to specialize in specific areas, instead of working as generalists in their field.

Many of Mr. Brown’s initiatives have focused on officer safety, including giving his officers the ability to carry firearms while on duty. The Jefferson County Board of Legislators approved the measure in June.

It took him several years to bring the idea to fruition, even winning over some who initially were opposed to the idea.

“Ed believed very strongly in that idea. He wanted to make sure his men and women had the opportunity to protect themselves. I didn’t agree with him in the beginning but I respected his conviction,” said board Chairwoman Carolyn D. Fitzpatrick, R-Watertown.

As Mr. Brown reflected on his career, it was apparent that there are some difficult aspects of the job that are indelibly etched in his memory.

Mr. Brown said two people committed suicide while under his supervision.

He said it was the second suicide that really had a profound effect on him.

“I almost quit,” he said. “I felt like I hadn’t seen it.”

But Mr. Brown did not quit, and the Probation Department today is largely a reflection of his personality, which seems to be defined by an enthusiasm for the job — an enthusiasm that was born many years ago during a criminal justice class at RIT, when he first came in contact with a probation officer from Monroe County.

“I could tell he loved his job and I could see myself doing that, too. I’ve never regretted it since,” Mr. Brown said.

Mr. Brown will be replaced as director by Probation Supervisor David D. Corey, who completed a semesterlong internship at the department in 1982 under Mr. Brown’s mentorship.

Mr. Corey was hired as a probation officer trainee later that same year and has worked at the department for 31 years, spending 10 of those years as a probation supervisor.

“To Ed’s credit, he’s been a good leader. He’s prepped his workforce to go on after he retires,” said Jefferson County Legislator Philip N. Reed, R-Fishers Landing, chairman of the board’s General Services Committee, which oversees the Probation Department.

In retirement, Mr. Brown will spend time with his wife, Sharon, and two sons, Jason and Nathan, as well as mowing the greens at Highland Meadows, golfing, fishing, duck hunting and skiing.

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