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Miner Police Dept. asks for donations for K-9 unit

The Miner Police Department hopes the public will help them in their fight against illegal drugs.

The department is collecting money to buy a new K-9 dog and the equipment associated with it.

They’ve raised $13,000 so far and they need $22,000.

Officer Chad Melton says Miner sits near both Interstate 55 and Interstate 57, making it a prime location for drug trafficking and transactions.



K-9 unit officer loves his job

Most children dream of what they want to be when they “grow up.” Holly Hill Police Officer Walter Melton, with the help of partner and fellow police officer Vega, is living his childhood dream.

“As far back as I can remember I have always wanted to be in law enforcement. I didn’t, though, just want to be a police officer or a deputy — I wanted to be part of a K-9 unit,” Melton said.

Melton, a former Volusia County Sheriff’s Office deputy, has been in law enforcement since 2004 and got his big opportunity in January 2009 when he met his new partner Vega, a German shepherd. Vega is 3 years old, received the majority of her training at the Southern Hills Kennels in New Smyrna Beach and is specially trained in narcotics detection and tracking.

“From day one, Vega has been an important part of the Holly Hill Police Department,” Melton said. “In 2008, officers from the department, myself included, had made 170 narcotic-related arrests. In 2009, since the K-9 program began, the number of narcotics arrests has increased to 205. The K-9 team was responsible for 70 of those arrests.”

In April 2009, a child went missing along a very industrial and busy street in Holly Hill. When the parents were unable to locate the child, they notified the police department. The K-9 unit — Melton and Vega — was part of the response team. After a quick search of the area where the child had been last seen, he was located and reunited with his family, Melton said.

“At times, being a police officer can be very rewarding and I guess at times it can be quite disturbing,” he said. “But to this day I still get a sense of pride, and I feel good all over, when we drive down the street or are near the area where the child was lost.

“When the neighborhood kids see us they start yelling ‘There’s Vega!’ and they run over to the car. They put their hands on the window as if they are touching Vega.”

Not every breed of dog is suited for police work. The majority of police dogs are German shepherds, although Labrador retrievers and other breeds are sometimes used for specific tasks. The key attributes of a successful police dog are intelligence, aggression, strength and sense of smell, according to Bill Heiser, president of Southern Hills Kennels.

“All police dogs must first become experts at basic obedience training,” Heiser said. “They must obey the commands of their handler without hesitation. A police dog must also make it through endurance and agility training. The dog must be able to jump over walls and climb stairs.”

Each dog is acclimated to city life, because a dog that’s nervous around people won’t make a good police dog, Heiser said. Finally, each dog receives specialty training. Many dogs are trained to search for drugs, though some are bomb or gun sniffers. Police dogs can also track missing persons or suspects, he said.

A police dog’s work isn’t all about his nose, though. The intimidating growl of a well-trained German shepherd can cause many criminals to surrender instead of running or fighting. The very presence of a police dog can prevent physical confrontations, Melton said.

Police dogs live with their human partners. A K-9 unit is a team that stays together 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is always on call.

“As well as being my partner, Vega is a functioning member of my family,” Melton said. “I am just as responsible for her care and safety as I am of any other member of my family.”

A police dog’s career usually lasts about six years and requires almost constant training.

“In addition to our regular departmental duties, we do community service work as well as an ongoing training session once a week, which involves obedience, strength and agility training.” Melton said.

“Law enforcement is like daily life — if you just sit back and do nothing you get lazy and rusty.”



Kind cop battles the mean streets

WHERE were these guys when I was in school and a troubled youth?! Ok, I wasn’t, but I would have been more than willing to be troubled!!!;)

Jason Melton might tote a holstered firearm and a pair of handcuffs, but that’s not how he fights crime in this west-side suburb recently rattled by a fatal shooting.

Deputy Jason Melton, Kearns

Deputy Jason Melton, Kearns

This Salt Lake County sheriff’s deputy relies on something more effective: a high-five in the hallway, a back-at-you sense of humor and tight-knit relationships with youngsters that led a frightened sophomore suspected of shooting his fellow classmate last month to ask Melton to arrest him.

Deputy Melton’s turf: Kearns High School. That’s ground zero when it comes to preventing crime, weakening gang ties and building students’ long-term trust in law enforcement. It’s where people such as Melton are trying to make a difference to keep tragedies such as the lunch-hour killing of Esteban Saidi in late January from happening again.

Melton is no stiff-collared cop.

“Had some good bacon this week?” quipped Kearns High junior Cody Johnson as he spotted Melton last week between classes.

“Yeah, try the ham,” the deputy replied.

Melton doesn’t believe in the tough-guy approach to policing. He tried that while working security at the prison. It didn’t work. But he remembers well the change that occurred in a particularly belligerent inmate when he apologized for shouting him down during a cell search.

“It takes a man to apologize,” the prisoner told him. “And I’m sorry, too.”

That inmate, who once heckled and spit at the guards, began to greet Melton with a smile and a hello.So Melton puts a more personal touch on police work. He stands in a bustling hallway at Kearns High and razzes one student about wanting to join the fire department, puts an arm around another, and takes a shoulder punch from yet another.

His message: I’m not that different than you.

“The badge, the gun, the handcuffs put a barrier between us,” Melton said. “That barrier has to be there. They have to know that I’m going to take action if needed. But beyond that, I’m normal. I put my pants on the same way you do. I take a drink of water the same way you do. By doing that, [students] go, ‘I understand him.’ ”

It makes for an up-close relationship that paid off last month after Ricky Angilau, investigators say, shot into a crowd and fatally wounded Saidi. After fleeing to a nearby home, Angilau agreed to turn himself in. But he wanted Melton to arrest him.

“I just wanted to put my arm around him and say, ‘Yeah, you screwed up bad,’ ” recalled Melton, who escorted Angilau out of the house in handcuffs. “‘You’re going to have to pay a price. But you’re not bad, your behavior was.'”

The deputy stands on the front lines in this township’s battle against crime — a campaign that has captured both headlines and crowds as parents, teachers, religious leaders and Kearns High alumni consider ways to better safeguard their streets.

The solution, Melton believes, starts with trust.

It’s about finding common ground: jawing with teens about the In-N-Out Burger coming to Draper. It’s about showing kindness: retrieving a student’s keys from her locked car. It’s about providing understanding: offering a law-enforcement class that lets students ride along with deputies and experiment with speed-checking cars.

“Kids see police officers in a positive way, instead of the stereotyped messages on television,” Principal Stephen Hess said. “They see they are people. They see they are people who care.”

From the looks of it, Melton is making headway in Kearns.

“I respect the cops here,” said Chloe Olson, a senior. “They are really cool guys. You show them respect, and they’ll show you respect.”


Monroe police officers honored

Ten Monroe police officers were honored Friday for their part in the rescue of an infant following a June double murder-suicide.

During a brief ceremony, Monroe Police Chief Ron Schleuter awarded the department’s Medal of Valor to members of the department’s Special Response Team for their part in the June 11 standoff at a home on North McGuire Street. During the incident, SRT members entered the home during an armed standoff and rescued a crying infant who was lying on the floor.

“They made entry into the home without regard to themselves,” Schleuter said. “We felt that given the fact they went into the situation without regard for their safety, they deserved to be recognized for what they did.”

Officers recognized were Hank Smith, Mark Johnson, Jeff Gilbert, Mark Nappier, Jerry Melton, Carey Satrey, Lee Bishop, Quinton Holmes, Ted Kincannon and Jamie Eppinette.

On June 11, Bobby Brantley walked into a North McGuire Street home and shot his estranged wife and her mother before shooting himself after a standoff as police entered the house to save a 4-month-old boy, who was lying next to one of the women.

According to police and eyewitness accounts, Brantley went to the house shortly before noon armed with two shotguns, shooting and swearing as he approached.

His estranged wife, Theresa Brantley, 31, was pronounced dead at the scene, along with 55-year-old Treeba Ryder and Bobby Brantley. Theresa Brantley’s father, Clinton Ryder, 60, survived a glancing blast to the face from a shotgun.

A two-hour standoff ensued with dozens of emergency personnel, including Monroe police and fire, state troopers and SWAT officers. Schleuter said the Special Response Team decided to go into the home after it sent a digitally equipped robot inside and heard the infant cry. Through the robot camera, they also could see a woman lying on the floor.

The women, he said, were already dead when the response team went in.

As Gilbert and Bishop walked into the kitchen, they saw Brantley shoot himself.

“It was a very unfortunate incident — tragic,” Bishop said. “But it’s an honor to be recognized.

“So many times in your career you encounter these kinds of things in the line of duty and it’s nice to be appreciated.”

In June, the police department honored the Ryders’ neighbor Alissa Gaines, with a certificate of appreciation and a coin of commendation for helping three children who were in the house get to safety after the first shots were fired.