WASHINGTON — She pulls up in her police cruiser, the one emblazoned with "Officer of the Year" on the doors, for her daily workout at a Southeast boxing gym behind a strip mall. She leaves the Sixth District precinct in the rearview mirror of her mind and begins wrapping her hands before gloving up.
“I’ve been boxing for 18 years…a long time," Tiara Brown said.
They call her the 'Dark Menace', a one-time Olympic hopeful with a glittering amateur career. Now Tiara Brown is an unbeaten super featherweight champion, 9-0 with 6 knockouts itching for her first world title shot.
"I remember back in, I think 2012, I knocked this girl out and broke her ribs," she said, almost bashfully. "I felt bad for that, though, that I broke her ribs. I was like, ‘Aw, man.’"
On the street, Brown is known as "Officer Friendly." She's not just the Metro Police Department's Officer of the Year -- she is a beat cop on a bike with a larger mission.
"This is me when I was in elementary," she said, pulling up alongside a grade school and resting her arm on the chain-link fence to balance her bike. She watches the kids sprint around the asphalt at recess.
"That’s right, Girl Power. Get ‘em!" she yells to a few girls running.
"When I wrote my letter to the community," Brown began. "This is me. This is how I grew up.”
Imagine being vulnerable enough to tell the people you see on a daily basis at work your truth -- that you've seen someone shot in the head, answered calls for stabbings and rapes. That your brother was murdered in 2010 after he stopped hanging with the wrong people, that it was at that moment you realized you didn't want merely be a cop. You wanted to save lives and give hope to the hopeless.
"Many of you don’t even know me," Brown said, reading her own words. "But I will risk my life for you."
That's how Tiara's letter, written for Unsealed.com, to the Sixth District began. But the letter quickly got deeper. She spoke about being brought up by two loving, supportive parents -- both women -- and how the bigotry they faced in Ft. Myers, Fla., taught her to love people of all kinds. Mostly, she talked about the community she not only polices, but burns to change for the better.
She keeps reading her letter to the people she serves and protects.
"We still have so much more work to do. I’m writing you to ask you to come together as black people and continue to let us, the police, earn your trust," the letter continues. "The violence, the crime and the hurt in this community…it needs to come to an end. To do this, we need to take responsibility for each other’s pain. We need to place ourselves in other people’s positions. And learn to support and love each other. Most of all, we need to love ourselves.”
Many people in the Sixth District heard about the letter and read it for themselves. You have to ask if any of them actually call her on her words, as in, "Really, Officer Brown, you’d risk your life for me?"
“Well, they already know it," Brown said, deadpan.
They also know she cares for a very deep and personal reason -- her brother's murder nine years ago. There are times when she sees a kid that reminds her of her brother, that wayward soul that just needs the direction of any kind.
"When I see an individual going down the same path and they are the same age that my brother was," Brown said, "I do pull them to the side and let them know, ‘Hey, there’s another way. The streets weren’t made for you. You don’t want to be out here."
Some of the people she sees daily have shown up to her fights to support her.
Women's pro boxing isn't a money-maker.
Her biggest paycheck so far for a fight has been about $12,000 -- and that's before you pay your trainer, the sanctioning body and everyone else. Still, it's what Brown knows and loves. Before the end of the year, her promoter has told her she's in line for a title shot.
"As long as they lay it for me and give me the fight, I’m definitely going to be a world champion," she predicted.
The night they do put that gaudy gold-plated belt around her waist, well, it won't make her rich. But it will give her the balance she loves between work and life.
"I don’t want to be stereotyped or profiled being a law enforcement officer the same way we don’t want to be stereotyped for being African American," Brown said.
The more time you spend with Tiara Brown, the more her smile and her attitude become infectious, the more you realize, "Boxer/Cop" barely does her justice. No, she's a young, beautiful, strong woman with an incredible heart, who just happens to box and also happens to be a police officer.
She once responded to a call and of an elderly woman in the arms of her husband, who was trying to resuscitate his life partner of 50 years or more.
"It's the saddest thing I've seen in my life," she said. "And the fact that this is your wife, someone you’ve loved all these years, and she’s gone. He was trying to do CPR on her and nothing worked."
When the paramedics arrived and the man began sobbing, "No one knew what to do," Brown said.
"So I just went over and I gave him a hug. And he just held onto me and I just held onto him," Brown said. "I mean, I took that home with me.”