Brent Rowsey knows how it goes. Some people see a police officer and they can’t get past the whole authority figure thing. They see a uniform. They see a badge. They see a person who can give them a ticket.
It’s a challenge, and one that Rowsey, who was sworn into the Brentwood Police Department at Monday night’s Board of Commissioners meeting, thinks he knows how to tackle.
The way forward, as he sees it, is getting those people “to understand that we’re people, too.”
“I think a lot of people see the badge sometimes and are maybe intimidated by it,” he said. “But if you get to know the person, we are people like anybody else. We have loved ones, family. We like to have fun, cut up, as well. If people saw that side, had a chance to just talk to us, not just see the badge, see the authority figure, it would maybe help create less tension than everyone has.”
What Rowsey is talking about is communication — getting involved in the community and meeting people — which he says is a key part of being a successful police officer.
“If you can’t communicate with people I think you’ll struggle in this profession,” he said. “To be able to communicate with others no matter where they’re from, no matter the socioeconomic status. You have to be able to talk to everyone.”
Rowsey prides himself on his ability to talk to everyone. It’s just something he’s good at. It’s part of his personality, and an asset in his position as a police officer.
“I feel like I can pretty much talk to anyone, no matter who it is,” Rowsey said. “And I feel like I can relate to them, and if I can relate to them, I’ll find a way to build common ground.”
The idea of becoming a police officer was with Rowsey from a young age. Growing up in Henderson, Tennessee, about a half an hour south of Jackson, Rowsey always admired his family members who were in law enforcement. He had an uncle who was a sheriff’s deputy in Jackson and some cousins who worked for the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
“[That’s] really where I got my first interest, from seeing them do it, the life they live,” Rowsey said. “I just saw that they did everything the right way.”
Of course, Rowsey’s childhood wasn’t all daydreaming about police work. He was into sports, as well. Not that Henderson offered too many other entertaining options for a kid.
“Henderson is a small, small town. I grew up pretty much playing sports my whole life,” Rowsey said. “Played basketball, baseball, football. That was pretty much my thing in Henderson. It doesn’t have much. You pretty much have to go to Jackson to do anything.”
That smallness has its advantages, though. To hear Rowsey tell it, Henderson is the type of town where everybody knows everybody, and everybody cares about everybody. It’s “close like a family,” he said.
He keeps up with plenty of folks back home and has ever since he went away to college at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas.
Rowsey went to Harding for football. He was a fullback. He played one year before deciding to turn his attention to the study of criminal justice.
It was in the university’s criminal justice program that he encountered a teacher and a mentor that would change his life: B.J. Houston.
Houston was “a huge influence on me,” Rowsey said. He admits that when he went to college he wasn’t the most studious guy. Sports had been his thing more than studying. Houston changed his perspective, though, instilling in him a sense of academic focus and responsibility that helped him in his other classes and in life.
“She built that relationship. You didn’t want to disappoint her,” Rowsey said.
And her main message?
“Just do the right thing,” Rowsey said. “She wanted you to do the right thing and always go about it the right way. She motivated you and pushed you to be a good person.”
Influential though she was, Houston was not the most important person Rowsey met at Harding University. The most important meeting he had was on Feb. 19 after chapel. Rowsey had seen her the night before at a basketball game and had asked a friend to introduce them. Her name was Emily.
“I told her I was going to a Corey Smith concert,” Rowsey said. “She liked Corey Smith, as well … we’ve been together ever since.”
The couple has been married two, going on three years.
After graduating, Rowsey worked at the White County Detention Center for a year before joining the Searcy Police Department.
He had a great experience there, he said. He remembers people thanking him for his service as he was out on his duties.
“It would be nothing for us to come into the department and there’s a basket of goodies,” Rowsey said.
Rowsey had always thought about returning to Tennessee, though. And one night while he and Emily were searching around on the internet, he saw a job posting for a police officer in Brentwood
“My wife and I were talking one day. We just happened to go online,” Rowsey said. “I said if we move, this is where I want to go.”
They weren’t planning on moving so soon, but it just seemed like the perfect opportunity. Rowsey applied. He got hired.
Even before he and Emily moved, one thing really stood out to him about the Brentwood Police Department.
“They kept in contact with me through the weeks,” Rowsey said. “They’d check on me – ‘Hey Brent, how ya doing? We just want to update you on this. If you need us to help with anything, let us know.’ I got the sense that they feel like you’re part of the family.”
When the Rowseys moved a few weeks ago, it immediately felt right.
“I got the feeling, this is home. This is where I want to be,” he said.
Right now, Rowsey is in the midst of a training period. He’s already graduated from a police academy in Arkansas, so he can go through an abbreviated academy session now that he’s in Tennessee, but he’ll still be riding alongside a senior officer for a few weeks.
In his off time, there’s the matter of his golf score. He’s shooting about a 100 to 120 right now, and he’d like to bring that down on some of the region’s golf courses.
“I’m getting better, getting better. I’m not the best, but I’m working on it,” he said with a smile.
More importantly, though, there’s the matter of what he wants to accomplish on the police force; what kind of an officer he wants to be. He can already envision it.
“Anytime I go on a call or a traffic stop, I try to leave that call or traffic stop in a positive manner,” he said. “I want them to say when I left, ‘That cop was really nice. Maybe I was in the wrong, but I like how he handled it.’”
Rowsey knows that Brentwood supports its police department “110 percent,” as he put it. He knows that will make his job easier.
In that way, he thinks his new job will have a lot in common with his old one in Searcy.
“It’s pretty much gonna be the same job, same goal,” Rowsey said. “Making sure that we’re doing the right thing and affecting people in a positive way. Making sure that people are safe and that they feel safe and if they need us we’ll be there for them.”
Landon Woodroof covers the City of Brentwood for BIGRMedia. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.