Justin Brown joins OCSD as deputy and canine handler

Ozark County’s newest sheriff’s deputy, Justin Brown, was sworn in by Ozark County Circuit Clerk Becki Strong Tuesday morning. Brown was hired to replace former deputy Vesa Phelan, who resigned from the department last month. The deputy worked with West Plains Police Department canine Tuk in 2018 before the dog had to retire due to medical issues. Brown said that Ozark County’s new police canine, Rye, pictured right, looks a lot like Tuk. He said he’s excited to work with the dog in Ozark County.

The Ozark County Sheriff’s Department this week gained a new deputy, West Plains resident Justin Brown.

Brown, an experienced canine handler and crisis negotiator, will be working with OCSD canine Rye. 

Brown started his tenure with the OCSD Tuesday, replacing former Ozark County Deputy and canine handler Vesa Phelan, who resigned from the sheriff’s office last month.

“I’m excited to come over to Ozark County. This will be a good opportunity for me in my career,” Brown told the Times Tuesday. “I look forward to bringing my training and experience there to help benefit the citizens of Ozark County, and I look forward to working with the canine. That’s a passion of mine.”

Brown comes to the department with 15 years of law enforcement experience, including investigating multiple homicides, numerous drug cases and other serious criminal cases in addition to work and certification as a school resource officer.

He’s also worked closely with the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms division, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

“I have worked with Justin in the past, and I know he’ll make a great addition to the Ozark County Sheriff’s Office,” Cass Martin, who will take over as Ozark County Sheriff in January, told the Times. 


Transitioning the OCSD under a new sheriff

Ozark County Sheriff Darrin Reed said Brown marks the first of several new deputies the department will likely hire in the coming months. 

“I contacted Sheriff-Elect Cass Martin and asked him if he had any recommendations on who to hire,” Ozark County Sheriff Darrin Reed said. “We’re already down one deputy (Phelan). And we anticipate we’ll be down three deputies by the end of the month and four deputies by the end of next month, as officers have accepted positions elsewhere and are going on to other jobs.”

Reed said he is happy to work with Martin to transition the department in November and December, hiring deputies that Martin wants on his team when he takes office in January 2021. 

“It’s something I’ve discussed with Sheriff-Elect Martin. I’m happy to have him come in and start learning the office. I’d be happy to let him start picking the people he’ll want to work with and hiring them; that way we’re not leaving Ozark County short on deputies over the next couple months.”


Brown’s background

Brown graduated at the top of his class from the Southeast Missouri State Police Academy in 2001. He began his career with the City of Puxico Police Department as a reserve deputy and has served as a law enforcement officer for the Carter County Sheriff’s Office and Hayti Police Department and as a school resource officer at East Carter County Schools and Pemiscot County Schools. 

In 2011, he moved to West Plains and paused his career in law enforcement to begin a family.

He currently lives in West Plains with wife Jennifer and their two children, Scout and Piper. The Browns have another daughter, Rachel, who has moved out of their home and is currently working as a nurse.

Brown joined the West Plains Police Department in 2015 as a reserve officer and transitioned into the department’s public information officer’s job then later was hired as a full-time patrolman. 

During his time with the WPPD, Brown was trained as a level II crisis negotiator, receiving a certification through Crisis Systems Management. Brown served as a crisis negotiator numerous times in situations involving multiple agencies, and all incidents were resolved peacefully. 

In 2018, Brown and his canine partner Tuk were trained and obtained certification through the Missouri Police Canine Association. The pair were responsible for many drug seizures and arrests until Tuk retired due to medical reasons. The canine died in November 2019.

Brown remained a patrolman and crisis negotiator with the West Plains Police Department until late last month. He took a few weeks off before starting in Ozark County.


OCSD canine Rye

The Ozark County Sheriff’s Office announced the planned addition of a police canine in February this year after the department received a donation from the Harlin family and Century Bank of the Ozarks to sponsor Rye, a female German shepherd. 

Former Deputy Phelan initially trained with Rye at Torch Light K9, a Tulsa, Oklahoma, company specializing in training police canines. 

Ozark County Times

504 Third Steet
PO Box 188
Gainesville, MO 65655

Phone: (417) 679-4641
Fax: (417) 679-3423