Retiring Lieutenant speaks about 36 years of service to PJC

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Retiring Lieutenant speaks about 36 years of service to PJC
Lt. Gordon Melton at Warrington campus
Lt. Gordon Melton at Warrington campus

Published: June 4, 2009

Lt. Gordon Melton

The PJC Police Department was formed July 1, 1973. I started work on the midnight shift on July 23, 1973. I worked 10 pm until 6 am. When the College changed from a Security Department to a Police Department, each officer was required to have Florida Police Standards and Training, or as we call it, “Rookie School.”

When our Department was formed we had a Chief, Lieutenant, Detective, 3 Sergeants, 2 Dispatchers, and 13 Officers. We covered all 3 shifts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This included all holidays too. At that time the Milton Campus was located in the old Milton High School building in downtown Milton. The Warrington Campus did not exist.

I worked the midnight shift and my days off were Wednesday and Thursday. I did not see daylight for so long I felt like a “night Creature.” Back then I worked alone most nights and we did not have a night dispatcher. I had to use the Pensacola Police Radio that was mounted in the police car. If I needed to call for help, I had to make it back to my patrol car. I backed up the City Police Officers on calls and traffic stops adjacent to the campus and they backed me up on some of my calls.

I found people wandering the campus all hours of the night. I found drunks passed out and had to transport them to the Detox Center. I have found homeless people trying to find a warm place to sleep on a freezing night. I still recall walking around buildings at 2 am checking doors and windows hearing the frozen grass blades making a crunching noise as I walked across the lawn.

I later became the Detective after long time Detective Charlie Miller retired. Mr. Miller was in charge of the Security Department before PJC became a Police Department. He had retired from the Pensacola Police Department before coming to PJC. I worked with him about 6 months before he retired and learned a lot from him about how to conduct investigations.

While Detective I made a lot of arrests and felt like I lived in court. Most days I was either in a Court Deposition or Court Hearing for someone I arrested.

When the Warrington Campus was built, I was assigned to the 3-11shift and later promoted to Sergeant. Later I was promoted to Lieutenant and assigned to Warrington day shift.

Over the years I have usually been able to avoid fights during arrests by simply talking in a calm voice, listening to the person’s side of the story, and giving them a chance to “vent” a little to calm down. Unfortunately some people are going to resist and fight with you no matter what you do. I have been to the ER on a few occasions to get stitches from fights during arrests.

One of my most vivid memories of a fight during an arrest, that landed me, my fellow officer, and the arrestee in the ER, was the arrest of Wendell. Wendell was a very large man. He was about 6’4”, weighed 300 pounds and all muscle. I remember his arms were almost as big as my legs. To make matters worse he was “a little crazy.” The day before, Wendell went to the gym and chased some of the basketball team from the court and took the basket ball. One of our officers responded and during the struggle ripped off Wendell’s shirt. He knocked her to the floor and ran out the door. The next day Wendell returned to the gym. Officer Wesley Jones and I responded to the call and when we entered the gym Wendell ran from us. We chased him from the gym to the student center and cornered him there. I grabbed one arm and Wesley grabbed the other. Wendell just lifted his arms and flung us in two different directions. Wesley went 3 feet and hit a concrete pillar. I went over one dining table and under another. As I was getting up from the floor, I saw Wesley hit Wendell with his radio. The radio exploded into pieces. I then hit Wendell with a Kell light flashlight. The flashlight broke where the head screws on and the batteries fell the floor. Wendell just looked at me, smiled, and said, “You should not have done that. I am really mad now.” He then tried to throw me through a plate glass window, so I hit him as hard as I could. I broke his nose and dislocated a knuckle in my hand. It knocked him to the floor and dazed him long enough for us jump on top of him and hold him until back up officers arrived to help us.

There have been many other types of calls too. From using a ratchet wrench to help a student put together his artificial leg that fell apart to removing snakes from inside and out of the buildings with our handy homemade snake pole to raccoons trapped in trash cans. I could fill a book with all the strange, weird and sometimes funny calls I have answered over the years.

I have seen a lot of people come and go from PJC over the years and have made many life- long friends. I have attended many retirement ceremonies for other people and have often heard them say, “PJC is like a family” and that they will miss seeing their friends on a regular basis. I have to say I feel the same way.

I think that in this type of job it’s very important to develop good listening skills and to show compassion when you can. There are times when you have to be tough too. Sometimes people just need someone to take time to listen to them. Sometimes I can help them or refer them to someone that can and sometimes not.

Before working at PJC, I was a student at PJC in 1970 enrolled in Business and Accounting classes. One day while working on spread sheets, I realized that was not what I wanted to do in life. I changed to Law Enforcement classes and everything I read in the books and everything the instructors said seemed to stick like glue, I could remember it all. I knew then that was what I wanted to do. After graduation from PJC, I enrolled in the Police Academy (Rookie School). I graduated from the Police Academy one day and started to work for PJC the next night.

I met my wife at PJC while she worked at the Library. One of my duties was to make regular checks of the LRC and escort the librarians to their vehicles after the LRC closed at 9 pm. We would talk often and soon began dating. We have been married 33 years and will celebrate our 34th wedding anniversary in August. Our son and daughter attended PJC and my wife attended Nursing School at PJC shortly after we were married. She is still working as a nurse.

My intent was to work at PJC another 4 years in the Drop Program but budget cuts have forced me to retire earlier. I am 10 years away from being able to get Social Security so I am sure I will need to do something at least part time. I am not sure what kind of job I will be doing. No matter what the situation, I try to be optimistic. The retirement may be a blessing in disguise. My daughter and her husband are expecting their first child (a boy) the first week in July. I am sure I will be doing my fair share of baby- sitting. I was a Cub-master and a Scoutmaster when my son was growing up, so I may get involved in Scouting again with my grandson. My son was an Eagle Scout. I may even have time to get back into my Radio hobby and get my Ham Radio License.

In the last years at PJC I have had the privilege of working with Chief Nancy Newland. She has always been there to support, help, and guide. She has always gone the extra mile looking out for her officers. I will never forget how she and other members of the department, on their off time, volunteered to help me clear fallen trees on my mother’s property after a hurricane. That is just one of numerous examples of how she goes above and beyond. I know the department will always be in good shape as long as she is there to guide.

To all my friends and acquaintances at PJC, I want to say thank you for many great memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. I wish everyone the very best.