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Michael Brookman: Exploring the Past and Experiencing the Present Written By Amy McElroy I f you’ve lived in the South Valley during the last quarter century, you’ve very likely met or seen Michael Brookman. You may have run across him giving tours at Henry Coe State Park, or working as a docent at the Gilroy Hot Springs, or a little further back when he worked as a police officer in Morgan Hill before he retired in 2014. Or maybe you saw him in one of the local coffee shops that he frequents since he moved to San Martin 26 years ago. Brookman likes to “people watch.” “I’ll sit there and smile and wave as people go by, and so many people just frown back at you,” he said, shaking his head and smiling in disbelief. As a police officer, Brookman origi- nally worked in various areas of Santa 14 Brookman at Morgan Hill Historical Society picnic (top photo) and at the Prohibition Day fundraiser also held at Villa Mira Monte Clara County, but moved into a position as a Morgan Hill officer after six years. “Morgan Hill was a great place to be a police officer,” he said. “If I was chasing a suspect, there were always people pointing and shouting ‘that way, he went that way.’ In San Jose, everyone would be pointing in different directions, or looking around saying ‘I didn’t see anything.’” Brookman explained another reason why he preferred living in the area where he worked: “Interface with community is so vital. You can’t judge people. They’re all customers.” So, he said, that’s how he treated them. But not everyone agreed with his approach. Once a victim filed a complaint against him after he arrested the burglars and retrieved the stolen items because the GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016 victim said Brookman was “too nice” to the burglars during the arrest. Before his years on the police force, Brookman said, “My favorite job ever was as a rigger in the circus for Marriott’s Great America.” At the time, he had been working as a theater tech, and then the owners decided they wanted a circus at the park. “It lasted five months,” Brookman said. “Not long enough. We were judged the best one-ring circus in the country. Barnum and Bailey came out and saw us, and they all had so much fun. It was the best.” Later on—before Brookman retired from the police force—he added yet another career to his résumé, turning his love of local history into work as a published writer. He had amassed a large