George B. Brosan, a career law enforcement officer who had served as Maryland State Police superintendent, died Thursday of cancer at his Annapolis home. He was 78.
"He was a titan in both attitude and influence, and had a splendid career in law enforcement," said Cornelius J. Behan, retired Baltimore County police chief. "He was devoted to his family and he was devoted to the job. He brought integrity to his work and the agency by respecting the rules and the rule of law."
"George was as honest as can be and his integrity was never questioned," said Frank Panessa of Annapolis, who had worked with Mr. Brosan at the U.S. Customs Service as well as the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, which became the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
The son of George Aaron Brosan, a New York City police officer, and Helen Sullivan Brosan, a secretary, George Bernard Brosan was born and raised in Rego Park, N.Y.
Mr. Brosan was a 1949 graduate of LaSalle Academy in New York City and earned a bachelor's degree in business in 1957 from Fordham University.
Commissioned a lieutenant, he served in the Army for six months. He remained an active reservist until 1968, attaining the rank of captain.
Mr. Brosan became a criminal investigator with the U.S. Customs Service in New York City. As a special agent, he worked mostly in internal security and was often drafted for special assignments that took him across the country.
After earning a master's degree in 1965 in public administration from City College of New York, he joined the Customs Service at its Washington headquarters, where he worked on domestic and foreign cases.
In the 1960s, he organized a Customs Service crime strike force and was involved with numerous high-profile figures, among them Timothy Leary, the Harvard University psychologist and 1960s counterculture icon.
"His reputation for taking down large-scale drug smuggling operations with ties to organized crime, both local and international, earned him both friends and enemies," said Jim Haas, a longtime friend who lives in Severna Park.
When President Richard M. Nixon established the Drug Enforcement Administration in 1973, Mr. Brosan was named acting chief inspector of the new agency. He later served as chief of the Freedom of Information Unit and headed its Baltimore offices from 1977 until 1984.
In 1984, he became a deputy assistant administrator in charge of DEA training programs across the country and overseas. In his federal post, he was based at DEA offices in Brunswick, Ga., and FBI facilities in Quantico, Va.
A year later, Gov. Harry R. Hughes appointed Mr. Brosan as state police superintendent.
At the time he was appointed, Mr. Brosan was dealing with an agency that was shaken by "severe morale problems and allegations of racial bias and favoritism in promotions," reported The Baltimore Sun.
Mr. Brosan, in a 1985 interview with The Evening Sun, explained that his philosophy went back to his days with the NYPD of being "where the action was," and that the state police had management problems. "That's where the action is, and that's where I'll be," he said.
"George was respected and loved by the troopers. He was widely known not only for his integrity but also his laconic sense of humor and even more for his wise and independent judgment and advice," said H. Tim Clark, who retired from the DEA and lives in Glyndon.
"He related to the troopers and earned great respect from them. Although he was entitled by his position, he never wore the uniform, preferring to dress in a business suit," said Mr. Clark.
"He said that although he was 'The Boss,' he had never gone through the Maryland State Police Academy and never 'earned' the actual uniform. Many would disagree with that," said Mr. Clark.
Eighteen months later, Mr. Brosan was let go. When Bishop L. Robinson, who was then-Gov. William Donald Schaefer's secretary of public safety and corrections, was asked by reporters for an explanation, he told The Sun that it was a "professional decision."