Brooks McKinley, Walton County Sheriff’s Deputy
Hurricane Irma has come and gone with luckily no damage in our community. In any type of emergency, big or small, multiple local agencies and well-trained first responders work together, with the goal of keeping everyone in the community safe. The Walton County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) is one of those agencies ready to assist. With water patrol boats, jet skis, 4-wheelers and 2 helicopters in their rescue fleet, the WCSO stays prepared for an emergency. Part of their preparation includes hiring people with special training, like Brooks McKinley.
Brooks is a Walton County Sheriff’s Deputy with specialized training, assigned to the Road Patrol and Beach Marine Units. Joining the US Coast Guard in October of 1988, Brooks maintained life support aviation equipment, spent time as an Aviation Survival Technician and rescued people as a Helicopter Rescue Swimmer. He performed rescues in the North Atlantic and Bearing Seas. The expert training he received from the Coast Guard was tested when he pulled 16 people from a burning 900 foot coal freighter, one at a time, hanging from a helicopter with a rope.
In 2008, after retiring from the Coast Guard with 20 years of service, Brooks joined the Mobile, Alabama Police Department. In 2016, when he and his wife Lisa decided to move to the Emerald Coast, he joined the WCSO. In addition to his regular law enforcement duties, Brooks performs additional specialized duties as part of the Beach Marine Unit. He drives a truck with a special water rescue board attached to the top. On any given day, he may assist lifeguards with medical emergencies, help a lost child find their family or patrol the water in one of their water rescue boats. Brooks also assists Code Enforcement Officers when needed with rules, such as enforcement of the rule to stay out of the water on a double red flag day. He says, “Pay attention to the flag system. Be smart. I want people to go home with the same amount of people you came here with. Use your common sense, have a great time, enjoy the area, but go home.”
Brooks told me that the best part of his job is “being around happy people, answering questions and providing a safe environment.” As part of helping the public stay safe, Brooks had several tips to share during our interview. His tips include:
- Most lost children are between the ages of two and ten. If you are on vacation, teach your child some identifiable information they can use if they get lost, such as where your family is staying. You can also write your phone number on their arm.
- Brooks also noted that “the water isn’t going anywhere,” so drive slowly to the beach.
- Brooks wants to remind people that sun and alcohol do not mix well, so make responsible choices about drinking.
- Lock your car doors and put items of value in the trunk. Lock your condo doors while you are away as well.
Say hello to Brooks if you see him patrolling on the beach in his truck, remember his words of wisdom, and know that he and all of the other first responders with the WCSO are always striving to do their best to keep everyone in the community safe.