"Black Dahlia Avenger" accuses Detective Thad Brown of taking part in a cover-up of the Elizabeth Short case. Here's an interview that allows Brown to speak for himself.

Los Angeles Times, Jan. 21, 1968


THE CASE OF THE MASTER DETECTIVE

Thad Brown: Storybook Success


By JOHN DREYFUSS
AND HOWARD HERTEL
TIMES STAFF WRITERS

    Fable has it that Thaddeus Franklin Brown once asked a policeman to leap from the top of City Hall, and the officer was halfway down before bothering to inquire about the reason for his plunge.
    Such is the loyalty inspired by the quiet cop with the steel-trap mind who retired this month after 42 years with the Los Angeles Police Department.
    Armed with uncanny intuition, boundless optimism and a snub-nosed revolver, Thad Brown rose from rookie to deputy chief while fulfilling his pledge to "protect and to serve."
    His is a storybook success. At 15, he quit school to work for 17 1/2 cents an hour in the lead and zinc mines near Joplin, Mo.
    Four years later, now a married man, Brown drove to California. He worked on farms, carried hod, and then became a plasterer.
    Working in the San Gabriel Mountains one cold day in the winter of 1926, the 24-year-old son of a Missouri storekeeper got disgusted with freezing fingers and lack of job security.
    He applied  for a Los Angeles Police Department appointment. On Jan. 11, 1926, Brown pinned on Badge No. 869.
    The 65-year-old grandfather has served in many roles, including seven months as chief after Chief William H. Parker died in 1966.
    But he is best known to colleagues across the nation and to citizens of Los Angeles as a master detective. He was chief of the city's detective bureau for 18 years.
    Thad Brown has worked the big cases: L. Ewing Scott (convicted of killing his wife even though no body was found), Albert Dyer (executed for slaying three little girls), William Edward "The Fox" Hickman (hanged for killing a child), Elizabeth Short ("The Black Dahlia," whose killer was not caught), and many more.
    But the reasons for his success have never made headlines. Brown sums up these reasons in a little homily which is also his favorite saying:
    "Treat others as you like to be treated yourself, provided they merit such treatment."
    A bit corny, plagiarized from the Golden Rule, the maxim happens to work for Brown.
    Its success is well illustrated in a sleuthing job that never hit the papers, but of which Brown is as proud as any that rated front-page treatment.
    "It was in the 1930s, and I saved an innocent man from a murder trial, and maybe from execution," Brown said.
    "This cabdriver lived in a third-floor apartment at 3rd and Columbia. He had a Murphy bed. It pulled down and you couldn't open the front door without raising the bed.
    "No one could get in that room with the bed down.
    "The cabbie woke up one morning and found his wife on the floor. She had fallen out of bed.
    "He picked her up. She was cold, and he pulled her tongue forward to give her artificial resuscitation. It didn't work.
    "When he knew she was dead, he carried her to a couch, lifted the bed, and went to call an ambulance.
    "The coroner found she died of suffocation. He found bruise marks on her neck. He said it was murder.
    "Hell, that kid didn't kill his wife, and I had to prove it. He loved her. There was no motive. It didn't ring true."
    Intensive investigation showed Brown the dead woman had epilepsy, a fact she had hidden from her husband.
    She had previously been saved by her sister from choking to death on her tongue during a seizure.
    That accounted for the suffocation, but what about the bruise marks?
    Brown discovered that the dead girl had a friend training to become a chiropractor. The friend admitted practicing on the girl and bruising her neck shortly before her death.
    "And everyone saw it as a clear-cut murder," Brown said. "Everyone but me."
    The case never came to trial.
    Thad Brown used to be an avid mystery novel fan. He has solved cases with tricks one might expect to find only in such books.
    The grisly murder of a girl found shot to death and with tooth marks on her body ended when Brown grabbed an apple from the mouth of a suspect.
    "Of course I gave him another apple--he was a big guy. But the tooth marks on the apple I took matched those on the body; and we had our man," Brown said.
    Because the super sleuth "treats others like you like to be treated yourself..." former criminals come to him with good leads.
    He often lends an ex-convict money, finds him a job, a room, a friend and a new way of life.
    Just as often he helps a young policeman in minor trouble or an officer's widow confused by problems surrounding her husband's death.
    Since his "door is always open" to policemen from cities across the land, whether they are recruits or chiefs, Brown has invaluable contacts among law enforcement officers.
    "There are few cities in the United States where I can't pick up a phone and get some policeman on a person-to-person basis," he said.
    But Brown is not all sweetness and light. He remembers the second half of his favorite saying: "...provided they merit such treatment."
    He can be a tough cop.
    Bandits who injure their victims infuriate Brown.
    "I'm strongly in favor of stakeouts on those cases to kill those clowns," he said.
    He cited a situation in which a gang led by a 6-foot-4 gunman had been robbing liquor stores and then clubbing clerks' heads simply to avoid identification.
    "We had five guys in the hospital with depressed skull fractures," Brown said.
    "So I staked out 46 detectives with shotguns backed up by 46 armed rookies.
    "We killed 10 holdup men in three weeks and didn't have another liquor store robbery for three months."
    The cigar and pipe-smoking policeman was nearly chief in 1950 when his qualifying test scores were second only to those of William H. Parker.
    Brown's abrasive relationship with the late Chief Parker is well known in the Police Department.
    He respected Park as an administrator, an attorney and a public speaker, but not as a detective.
    "Parker never worked the detective bureau in all his years on the force," Brown said.
    "As a matter of fact, outside of traffic work, he never did much police work at all.
    "He made it pretty difficult from a detective's point of view. He took a pessimistic attorney's outlook. He searched for loopholes.
    "You've got to be optimistic about your chances in this business."
    Perhaps the relationship between the two career officers can be best seen through a comment Brown said he once made to his chief:
    "Bill, I'll do the work and you do the talking, and if I'm half as good at working as you are at talking we'll both be in business."
    They were both in business for many years, and in a sense Thad Brown remains in the police profession.
    "One of my boys has been a Los Angeles policeman for 20 years, my daughter married a policeman and my other son is in military intelligence work," he said.
   
   

   
Home