AUGUSTA — Keith Brann has helped put away murderers, robbers and burglars as head of the Augusta Police Department’s criminal investigative unit.
As he reflects on his 27 years with the department, however, what Brann recalls are the people who have worked alongside him. Brann, who retired from the department Friday, can no longer call them co-workers, but they’ve always been so much more than that anyway.
“It’s bittersweet,” he said. “This has been a big part of my life for a long time. It’s family.”
Brann, 57, has commanded the four full-time detectives for the Criminal Investigation Division for the past 14 years. Police Chief Robert Gregoire, who joined the department six months after Brann, said the lieutenant’s patience and ability to communicate helped revolutionize the division.
“A lot of that has to do with mentoring from the division commander,” Gregoire said. “You channel the officers’ abilities and enthusiasm in the right direction and they have the opportunity to excel. That’s what he’s been able to do.”
Gregoire’s claim that the unit does “great criminal work” is supported by state crime data. A sampling from 2008 to 2012, the most recent years for which comprehensive data is available, indicates Augusta police had a crime clearance rate that exceeded county and state averages, often significantly, in all but one year. That was while typically investigating more than a third of all of Kennebec County’s index crimes, which are classified as murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and vehicle theft.
Still, Gregoire said, Brann’s effectiveness is measured by more than statistics.
“Clearance rates fluctuate depending on how busy we are,” he said. “The busier we get, our clearance rates go down.”
What is most noteworthy are the improvements the division has made in technology and techniques. Gregoire said the division has worked cases more aggressively under Brann’s command.
“The professionalism under Lieutenant Brann has definitely improved,” Gregoire said.
Brann accepts such praise the same way a roof accepts water, shedding it quickly and passing it along to those who work under him. The detectives’ ability to succeed, however, can be traced to Brann’s ability to understand people. That understanding, ultimately, is borne of a genuine desire to see them succeed and grow.
“I tried to build on what people had strengths in and give them the training to allow them to bloom,” he said. “It’s worked out really well for us.”
“He knows people,” Gregoire added. “He has a good read on human nature. And a lot of that has to do with his communication skills.”
There has been an exponential growth in technology since Brann took over the division, and he has stayed busy keeping up. The department now has a crime laboratory, a computer laboratory, an electronic fingerprint lifter and a drying closet for things such as processing bloody clothes. The department even has converted an old ambulance into a crime scene response vehicle that doubles as an equipment vehicle for the Special Response Team. Brann said he was able to make those upgrades because he always had the support of the chiefs above him to provide detectives with the proper training.
“When I started as a detective, all we had was a camera and print kit,” Brann said. “The amount of things we have to work with now are unbelievable compared to what we had before. It’s something I had a part in. I’m pretty proud of it.”
Brann spent last week cleaning out his office. He was saving some of the most prized material for his nephews.
Brann has been hired as the executive vice president of security for Bank of Maine. He credits landing the job, like the success of his department, to friends and colleagues.
“I have a lot of friends that said nice things about me,” he said. “I’m pretty happy about it.”
For the first time in nearly 30 years, Brann will work in a new environment with all new people. He admits he’s a little nervous.
“I’m ready to learn,” he said. “There’s a lot to it. I just want to do a great job.”