Easton Police Detective Brian Burd knows one of the most important keys to becoming a good officer.
A strong, supportive spouse who understands the grim grind of a dangerous job.
Late one night on July 18, 2018, Brian and Nicole Burd were in an area hospital enjoying their new son, who was born shortly before.
“My son was only a few hours old when I got the call to come in to work,” the Easton Kiwanis Club Officer of the Year told lehighvalleylive.com recently. The criminal investigations unit supervisor, Lt. Matthew Gerould, was out of town and Burd was the deputy commander of the special response unit should anything major happen, he said.
“If my wife doesn’t push, I’ll be available,” said Burd, who will be honored with the Officer of the Year award May 11 at the Pomfret Club.
A 27-year-old man from Easton had locked himself in an apartment in the 600 block of Pearl Street and beat his housemate with a baseball bat, then shot a gun through the window and threw Molotov cocktails that had ignited a nearby store. and burned the hood of a police car.
It turned out to be two hours which illustrated how the tactics involved in policing and fire protection in the city had changed over the years as the man, carrying a machete, was arrested without the police n use lethal force.
“We were certainly tested,” Burd said, thanking Unit Commander Dan Bonham for his work at the scene. “It was one of our more serious interventions. … It went well at the end of the day; He got out.”
It was one of many times Burd, 37, has put himself in harm’s way since joining the police department in 2006.
And one of the many times his wife had to worry about the outcome.
“It definitely takes a strong woman and someone who understands your cause to put up with this nonsense,” he said.
A 2003 graduate of Warren Hills Regional High School and a father of two who grew up in Washington, he calls himself “blessed.”
He joined the Army National Guard in 2004 and was deployed for a year from June 2008 to Iraq where he focused on base security in special operations.
It is a life of service to community and country, he explained.
“I always felt that I needed and wanted to serve,” he said. “…It was always something I felt inside of me growing up.”
It wasn’t necessarily a family affair, although a grandfather had served in the military, “but he never really talked about that service,” the detective said.
Burd’s calling began to materialize when he became a volunteer firefighter in his hometown.
“My craving for public service kind of started there,” he said.
He briefly studied criminal justice at Warren County Community College, but had to give it up when he was needed to help with his family’s garage door business, he said.
But such manual labor was not his end goal.
“I thought maybe I could use the skills I learned in the military and pursue a career in law enforcement,” he said.
He certainly wasn’t a “city boy,” but when he heard there was a job opening with the Easton Police Department, he applied.
It was the only place he did.
And to his surprise, he got the job in what was a struggling department at the time.
After three months of on-the-job training, he worked a mid-shift on patrol before the department moved to 12-hour shifts and was happy on the streets from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
He liked to work those hours because it was busy, he said.
“You learn the most during these times,” he added.
It was led by Bonham and Sgt. Joe Alonzo. And, still in the background, was Gerould, a family friend and mentor who would eventually become Burd’s boss.
But very early on, the new patrolman knew what he had to do.
“You keep your mouth shut, do the right thing and work hard,” he said. “As a new guy, you don’t want to move your mouth too much because you have a lot to learn.”
And there was a lot of learning.
He saw a man trying to jump off a bridge behind the Wawa in the city center being reported by crisis negotiators.
His first homicide took place at the former Delaware Terrace public housing on the South Side. The mention of it brings it back there.
“The violence of a homicide,” he said when asked what was left of the call. “The body. The (bullet) casings. The blood. The violence that exists in the world.
The department’s efforts over the past decade or more have changed the city, Burd said. But the department also changed during that time, he added.
“I believe we hired younger guys who were motivated and wanted to do what it took to get violent people off the streets,” he said. “Officers and detectives were carrying out very thorough and thorough investigations.”
Burd took office shortly after the death of Easton officer Jesse Sollman, who was fatally injured in an accidental shooting in the armory of the former South Third Street police station.
There was turmoil those days the department was rebuilt with the help of the federal government and the SWAT team was eliminated.
But rising crime was creating equal turmoil on the streets of the city, he said.
“I can tell you we were busy,” he said. “There wasn’t a corner…in the city where you couldn’t make an arrest or open an investigation. Drug raid after drug raid after drug raid. It was a busy time to stay motivated. Get as many people off the streets who were causing the violence. »
He worked 10 years on patrol before being promoted to detective in the vice unit in 2016.
This is a key niche because the city department has fought drug-related crime for many years in an effort to curb the gun violence associated with it.
“I enjoyed the drug work,” he said. “Getting drug dealers and violent people who tend to be part of the drug world off the streets.
The “quantity” of raids sticks to his skin.
Being undercover presented specific challenges in monitoring and controlling drug purchases, he said.
“It’s about trying to fit in and making sure people don’t notice who you are in that moment,” he said. “It’s difficult in a small town. However, we have the seriousness of drugs and crime that big cities have. It’s not the easiest thing in the world, but you make it work.
In August 2019, he moved from vice to general criminal investigations, doing more office work, including cell phone forensics.
“Instead of looking for work (in vice), work came to me,” he said.
He was investigating robberies, rapes, murders and shootings, he said. He continued his work with the Special Response Unit, which replaced SWAT and is highly trained.
Northampton County District Attorney Terry Houck said Burd was a “tenacious investigator with a very high IQ – and I say that as an officer and a person.”
That ability is why “he was assigned” to lead the investigation into the recent double homicide in Easton’s West End, Houck said.
And Burd has become a “go to guy” for cellphone technology investigations and is becoming a trial expert for not only the city’s police department but other jurisdictions as well, Houck said.
“What sets him apart is that he’s always looking to improve,” Houck said.
Over the past 16 years, Burd has seen a city evolve.
“In 2007, nobody wanted to come here,” he says. “…Easton has changed drastically. We have more apartments, buildings and housing. People really want to live in the city. Nightlife flourishes here. People want to come to Easton and spend their money.
“…It’s nice to work where people want to go. It’s nice to see people enjoying the city rather than wanting to abuse it.
With new residents, many tourists and people visiting the improved dining scene, the public’s impression of Easton policing has also changed, Burd said.
“They don’t expect to be arrested” when they see an officer, he said. “They don’t expect to have a negative experience with the police.”
With nearly two decades under his belt in the military and in the police, while Burd admits he is still “very young”, he has learned a lot.
And that was still clear in recent days during a nine-hour standoff with a man on the roof of a South Side home. Burd was up there when the man finally surrendered.
“It depends on training and experience,” he said, noting that the new downtown police station has improved preparedness opportunities. “You have seen a lot and experienced a lot. With much of the training I’ve had, we know there will be a result at some point. Some situations don’t need to be rushed.
“He was going to come out of the roof at some point. With experience, you have the knowledge and you are better able to make decisions and solve the problem.
Gerould says Burd has the drive, knowledge and ability to do his current job — and any future assignments or advancements — and succeed.
“I’ve known Brian his whole career here,” Gerould said. No matter the mission, “he would give 110%”.
Burd is an integral part of the Special Response Unit, Gerould said.
“He takes that work ethic to other missions, other task forces he’s on, and other specialized investigative formations he leads,” Gerould said.
“He helps train young officers in tactics and firearms…and crime scene processing.”
As for Burd’s future should he choose to move up the chain of command, Gerould said, “He could do any job in this department as his career progressed, just with his work ethic.”
Burd is hoping to move into a supervisory role before he turns 20, and while he could retire in a few years, it’s unclear if that will happen when he’s just 41.
“I love what I do,” he said. “I’m definitely part of a bigger operation, but I think when you break it down everyone has a role to play. It definitely takes all of that to make it work.
Which brings Burd back to Nicole.
“She always encourages me to pursue my career,” he said. “She has always been a cheerleader to me when it comes to this job. She is more than understanding when you get a call in the middle of the night. There is never any doubt in his mind.
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Tony Rhodin can be reached at [email protected].