Melbourne Beach Police Department soon will have a double transition with the retirement of Chief Dan Duncan after decades in local law enforcement and the swearing in of the town’s first female chief, also a local, Det. Sgt. Melanie Griswold.
Duncan, 64, who has held leadership roles in several local agencies, candidly said he’s a bit nervous leaving a career that spanned 40-plus years. But he knows it’s time to retire and already has an RV to help him and his wife transition to being a “retiree.”
Born and raised in Southern California, Duncan joined the U.S. Air Force after high school. He had the good fortune of being selected for a post at Edwards Air Force Base serving on the crew of the famous and top-secret U-2 spy plane – essentially a jet-powered glider used for aerial photography during the Cold War.
After the Air Force switched that function to another aircraft while he was stationed at Patrick Air Force Base, Duncan decided to stay in Brevard and go into law enforcement.
His career started in 1977 in the auxiliary of the Indialantic Police Department, which sponsored and paid for his training in the police academy. The night of graduation, the West Melbourne Police Department hired him for $7,100 a year and he started that very night.
After a year, he went with the Melbourne Police Department for an annual pay raise of about $2,000. He would be there 24 years and climb up the ranks to the position of commander before retiring … for the first time.
That retirement was short-lived as he went to the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office and worked on unsolved murders for a couple of years before being laid off. Still not ready to retire, he went to work with the Melbourne Airport Police for a couple of years before taking the Melbourne Beach police chief position. Duncan served as chief the past eight years.
Duncan’s bio chronicles the history of Brevard’s growing police departments including the high-profile cases and crime trends along the way such as the Palm Bay shootings in April 1987 and the crack cocaine epidemic.
“Most of my life has been in law enforcement right here in Brevard County,’’ he said. Melbourne Beach may be small, but the concepts of law enforcement are very much the same, he said.
“We have the same type of crimes as the mainland cities but not as often,’’ he said.
His philosophy: get every officer on board with the thought process behind the term “community policing,” going beyond driving up and down the streets and actually interacting with residents and business owners. Instead of just taking a report and pushing it off to a detective, the officers are encouraged to resolve the issue so it does not happen again, Duncan said.
“It builds trust. I just tried to instill that it’s such a beautiful town, there’s no reason we can’t know all the residents. If you’re just taking call after call after call, you don’t have time to interact,” he said.
Duncan was the first police chief in the area to adopt officer body cameras two years ago, showing that he’s still ahead of the curve.
“To end my career on a high note is something. This has been and joy and a pleasure. We’ve had our ups and downs, but overall I’m hoping I have got a right fit here with the officers and the community policing process,’’ Duncan said.
Prepared to carry community policing forward is Griswold, a graduate of Palm Bay High School, who described the promotion to chief as both “humbling and exciting,” especially for her proud family.
“A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into this” including getting education and training as a formerly single parent, she said.
Griswold said she’s looking forward to increasing community involvement and assisting other law enforcement personnel such as School Resource Officers involved in protecting schools.
Griswold, who served as interim chief, will be officially sworn in on June 22.