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First female SWAT member almost didn’t get her shot

A single mother says she will never forget the wise words of her father and how he helped her make history as the first female deputy to become a member of the exclusive and highly trained SWAT team in Polk County.

For Shanon Demarest to say fighting crime as a Polk County Sheriff’s deputy is her dream job is an understatement, but it’s a job the 28-year-old single mother and college graduate almost didn’t get a shot at. When she learned she was pregnant, she put the academy on hold for four years. Demarest worked as waitress and then as a bank supervisor. She couldn’t afford to go to the academy full-time and pay for daycare. But she remembers the day she received a phone call that changed her life.



Police K-9 handlers, dogs form strong bond

When Polk County Master Deputy Joseph Gill goes to work, his best friend is by his side. His best friend just happens to be a four-and-a-half year old German shepherd named Shea.

“I spend more time with this dog than I do with anyone else,” said Gill. “If I go to work, he’s with me. If I’m at home, he’s with me. If I’m out back, he’s playing with me.”

K-9 handlers like Gill understand the bond St. Petersburg Police officer Jeff Yaslowitz had with his dog, Ace.

Ace wasn’t involved in the attempted capture of Hydra Lacy Monday morning, but the death of Yaslowitz leaves many questions about Ace’s future.


Polk sheriff’s K-9 team first in nation to complete special training

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd has presented Deputy D. Brett Hermelbracht and his K-9 partner, Silvo, with a sheriff’s commendation recognizing their achievement in being the first K-9 team in the nation to complete a rigorous training program presented by the North American Police Working Dogs Association.

In March, according to Sheriff’s Office news release, Hermelbracht and Silvo went to Perry in North Florida to attend an annual NAPWDA workshop. The association offers a Tactical K-9 Instruction class at all of its workshops across the country. The class consists of three increasingly difficult levels that more than 130 canine teams from across the country have attempted to complete – but without success.


A day with Sheriff Grady Judd

It’s daybreak in Polk County.

Sheriff Grady Judd has been up for hours and is already out meeting some longtime residents. Judd is the keynote speaker at a prayer breakfast in Auburndale.

He has arrived earlier than necessary because he was told the breakfast would start at 7a.m. when in fact it begins at 7:30.

An early start doesn’t bother him much because there are people who have arrived already just to get the chance to see him.

They’re lining up, hoping to shake his hand or to thank him for his service.

He stands at the door of the civic center and, one by one, greets folks as if they are old friends.

They are pleased as punch to see the sheriff in person.

Sheriff Judd is like a movie star in these parts.

One man tells us, “He’s a modern day John Wayne and Clint Eastwood and a couple of those guys all rolled into one.”

A woman exclaims, “Oh, he’s a legend.”


Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd featured in Playboy magazine

Wow….people must be desperate for something to talk about in Polk County if this is a big deal.


Twistee Treat ice cream shop at 4945 U.S. 98 in Lakeland is a busy place on a Friday night. Customers will tell you it’s the place to be for a cool cone and just about any other ice cream treat.

Friday evening, the heated topic of discussion was
about the the sheriff of Polk County, Grady Judd, being featured in the pages of Playboy Magazine.

Barbara Janzen and her husband, Tom, are Lakeland residents who say they haven’t seen the magazine.

Anna laughed and said, “I never thought we should go out and buy one.” Anna and Vincent Tedesco are also of Lakeland.

Anna said, “I’m a little shocked to think that it’s there. I would hope he didn’t approve it being there.”

Sheriff Judd says he didn’t grant an interview to Playboy Magazine and even if they called him up and requested one, he’d turn them down. Because Sheriff Judd is a public official, journalists can report on him and the sheriff’s department without contacting the department first.

Judd said, “I would never interview with Playboy. That goes against my principles and code of ethics, but it’s what it is.”