Alan Brown was hired as Southwest Harbor's police chief in 2015. PHOTO COURTESY OF SWH POLICE DEPT

Southwest Harbor police chief dies unexpectedly while off duty


SOUTHWEST HARBOR  Anyone who worked in law enforcement over the last 30 years in Hancock County knew Alan Brown, who, to many, was simply called ‘Brownie.’  

Brown, who died on Friday at the age of 51, was hired as the police chief here in 2015.  

“Our community is heartbroken by the loss of Police Chief Alan Brown,” a statement released over the weekend by town officials said. “Alan is the exemplar of what law enforcement officers should be. His earnest facade gave way to a caring and insightful mind. He was dedicated to doing things the right way, even if that made more work for himand he always placed the needs of his officers and our community before his own.” 

Brown, a resident of Ellsworth, was at a family camp on Green Lake late Friday morning when he collapsed. A 911 call was made to the Ellsworth Police Department while a family member conducted CPR on him, but neither the officers nor the ambulance service who responded to the call were able to revive him.  

While he was attending college, Brown began his life-long career in law enforcement with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office. Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Police Chief Jim Willis was working with the sheriff’s office at the time.  

“We go back a long way,” said Willis, who was Brown’s supervisor at one point during their time together at the county agency. “We used to work at night, and we’d play golf during the day.” 

When Willis left the county and went to work at the Mount Desert Police Department, he and Brown continued working together, although they were focused on different aspects of law enforcement.  

“He was a professional, held in high regard,” said Willis, adding that his children and Brown’s son, Justin, grew up together. “We’ve always been connected. We talked several times a week. Most recently, we had both been tasked with combining dispatching services.  

“Part of the reason we were able to work together so well was because we had been working together for years,” Willis added. “He was a friend, straight up.” 

It was early in his career when Brown began working on Mount Desert Island as a young deputy patrolling Tremont for the sheriff’s office. He met his wife, Stacie, while working as a deputy.  

“Alan’s wife, Stacie, was the love of his life. His face always lit up when he would talk about the time spent with her,” said the statement from the town. “Alan was equally joyful and proud of his son, Justin. He would speak glowingly about how intelligent and caring his son was, without ever claiming it was a direct reflection of the man he was… Chief Brown is also irreplaceable to his law enforcement family and they mourn with the rest of his family.” 

That family extended into most agencies throughout Hancock County, including the one that responded to Green Lake on Friday. 

“He was a great guy and dedicated to helping the citizens of Hancock County,” said Ellsworth Police Sergeant Shawn Willeywho has known Brown for about 17 years. “He was proud of the changes he had made to the Southwest Harbor Police Department while he was there. He was just an all-around nice guy.” 

Southwest Harbor’s Interim Police Chief Mike Miller said the news was a shock to those at the department. A lieutenant under Brown for five years, it was difficult for Miller to speak about the loss.  

“It’s been a real pleasure working with Alan; he was a real professional chief,” he said. “He supported his officers and dispatchers. I think he did a great job in the five years he was here. The police department and the town are better for it.” 

Southwest Harbor Police Chief Alan Brown sits with a Pemetic Elementary School student last school year, before the pandemic.

One endeavor Brown was proud of during his time in Southwest Harbor was the department’s work with Pemetic Elementary School, particularly during this time when lockdown and lockout drills have become more commonplace.  

“Chief Brown was incredibly supportive of the work we do at Pemetic,” wrote Pemetic Principal Rhonda Fortin in an email. “He believed deeply in the power of an effectie partnership between Pemetic and the police department and he nurtured that partnership. Chief Brown helped Pemetic develop safety plans, supported us during safety drills and reflected with us on how we could improve our processes. 

“He encouraged all of his officers to stop by the school for visits so the students would not be afraid to see a cruiser pull up in front of the school,” she added. “He spoke with many of our students and helped them through tough times. Chief Brown was part of our Pemetic Family and he will be greatly missed.” 

Town Manager Justin VanDongen worked for the last two years with Brown as chief. 

“I am unable to fully express what a loss this is to our community and me personally,” he said in an email sent over the weekend.  

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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