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James “JT” Brown Wants to be the Next Fulton County Sheriff

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Fulton County Sheriff candidate James “JT” Brown has a plan. In fact, the now-retired veteran law enforcement officer has a three-step plan to return the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) to what he believed were its former lofty heights of respectability and efficiency. These days, you can Google the combination of “Fulton County Sheriff’s Office” and “Atlanta 2023” and a plethora of stories and posts on probes into the Fulton County Jail, detention officer arrests, and bad reviews on working at the jail. 

On a Friday morning inside the offices of The Atlanta Voice Brown took his badge out of the breast pocket of his navy blue suit. He retired in December 2022 so these days his FCSO badge reads “retired”, but he still keeps it close. After 37 years with the department, the level of pride he once had in the badge has changed.

“My badge is tarnished,” said Brown, tapping the badge with his right index finger. “What’s going on in the jail, the atrocities, we are talking about a controlled environment. How are people dying in a controlled environment when you have an almost quarter-billion-dollar budget?” 

The plan is simple, says Brown. It consists of the “Three D’s”, he explained. “Deaths, dollars, and diversion.” Regarding the multiple deaths that have taken place within the Fulton County Jail the past few years during current FCSO Sheriff Patrick Labat’s first term as sheriff, Brown said, “We are going to correct that problem.” 

Last year Brown and other retired department members who were still on reserve helped with a shakedown at the jail. Having been gone for a year, he was surprised at how things looked inside the jail where he once worked. “We found 138 shanks on detainees that day,” he recalled. “I know the county can do better because I saw better.” 

On the fiscal issues that have taken place, Brown said, “The fiscal management is shot over there, so we are going to correct that and make sure the budget is running efficiently and effectively.”  

The final “D” in the plan calls for programs that will focus on the youngest offenders. Brown spent time in the FCSO warrant division and witnessed first-hand how an arrest can derail a young man’s life. “This is what I heard from the kids when we went to their house because their parents couldn’t handle them, ‘Officer I dropped out of school because I couldn’t read’,” said Brown, who believes the road to petty crimes and ultimately a trip to Rice Street oftentimes starts with not being in school. 

“I told myself that if I ever got in charge I would create a reading program for the youth, and would work with community partners so we can bring the jail rate down.” 

Brown and his wife Monisha Brown have been married for 19 years. The couple have a son, Jordan, 18, who is following his father’s footsteps to Morehouse College. Photo by Kerri Phox/The Atlanta Voice

Brown has seen it all and then some during his career, which is entirely with the FCSO. As a member of the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) he not only worked on the warrant division but also the extradition unit, and was elected to the Fulton County Grievance Board. During his career he also received training from the National Association on Mental Illness (NAMI)

“I am a law enforcement CEO,” said Brown, a Detroit native who graduated from Morehouse College in 1985 before joining the FCSO in 1986, starting his nearly four-decade-long career.  That career and the educational experiences that took place during that time are what Brown’s supporters are saying which makes him the candidate to choose. 

“We have to start putting people in office who carry character. That’s the challenge,” said Brown’s wife of 19 years Monisha Brown. “My challenge to voters is to ask around the county about the reputations of all four candidates.” 

One of those voters will be the couple’s 18-year-old son London. He will be voting for the first time by the time the May 12 primary election takes place. A high school senior who is following in his father’s footsteps and will be headed to Morehouse College in the fall, London said his father’s character played a big part in earning his future vote. In an interview with The Atlanta Voice last week, the student-athlete said Brown had to earn his vote like any other candidate would have had to. “I see myself as an average voter and not JT Brown’s son,” he said. “The way he has to convince everyone else to vote for him, he has to do the same for me.”

London remembered an exchange between the two when he asked his father what he was planning to do if elected and what he was planning to change. 

“He wants to change the image of the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office,” London recalled. “From what he told me I told him he had my vote. I don’t see myself voting for JT Brown, my father, I see myself as an average voter voting for the best candidate who I believe is going to do what he needs to do to fix the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office.” 

If reputation and experience will define who the next Fulton County Sheriff is, Brown believes he will win. All those years working at various levels of the department have led him to this moment, he said. 

“I can win the election because I am the most approachable; the citizens know me. I did a lot of community service. My education, my training, I have every law enforcement certification there is because I wanted to make sure I was qualified to do the job instead of just learning it when I got there.” 

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James "J.T." Brown for Sheriff
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