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Podcast | 21 Minutes

America's Sheriff on Crime in the United States | Grady Judd

Marlin Detweiler Written by Marlin Detweiler
America's Sheriff on Crime in the United States | Grady Judd

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Prepare for exciting stories and deep thoughts as we dive into the topic of crime in America with Sheriff Grady Judd of Polk County Florida (aka, “America’s Sheriff”). You’ll hear exciting stories of catching criminals and be inspired by Grady’s advice on what small steps you can take now to help your state become a safer place for future generations.

Episode Transcription

Note: This transcription may vary from the words used in the original episode for better readability.

Marlin Detweiler:

Hello again, and welcome to another episode of Veritas Vox, the voice of classical Christian Education. Thank you for joining us today. We have a very unusual guest, America's Sheriff Grady Judd, the sheriff of Polk County, Florida, and someone I've had a chance to interact with before. Grady has had a stellar record and, I think has some wonderful things to say that relate to education about what he sees happening in America. Grady, welcome.

Grady Judd:

Thank you very much. It's certainly my pleasure to be with you today.

Marlin Detweiler:

Give us a little background on you personally first before we jump into our topic. Where did you grow up, and where did you go to school and things like that?

Grady Judd:

Sure. I was born and raised here in the county, in Polk County in Lakeland. Went to the elementary, the junior high school in Crystal Lake, and then to Lakeland High School and started to work first at sixteen years of age in the ambulance business. That was back before paramedics and EMTs. So that was my part-time job.

And then at the ripe old age of 18, one month after I graduated from high school, Sheriff Brannon at the time hired me in what we call the radio room. You would know it today as the emergency communications center, and I worked there until the ripe old age of 19 when they reduced the legal age from 21 to 18, and you were able to be a law enforcement officer at 19.

So at 19, I applied for and Sheriff Brannon allowed me to go to the police academy, and then I went to patrol as what we called in those days, a road deputy. And that's where my career started when I was just 19 years old.

Marlin Detweiler:

Wow. So how long have you been the sheriff of Polk County?

Grady Judd:

I've been the sheriff since 2005. Okay. I am just now beginning my 20th year. Well, as the sheriff, I've been with the sheriff's office my entire adult career. I went to Rollins College nights and weekends in order to get my bachelor's and master's degrees. And, of course, I married my high school sweetheart and have a couple of boys and now 13 grandchildren.

And it has been a dream for me to be the sheriff from the time I was only five or six years old. So I'm living a dream right now, and it is certainly a blessing and I believe a God thing. And I am so thankful for the people of Polk County allowing me to serve them as sheriff.

Marlin Detweiler:

Well, you have dramatically reduced crime in Polk County. I'm not going to cite the statistics because I might get them wrong. But tell me what the statistics are for the drop in crime while you've been sheriff.

Grady Judd:

Sure. Crime is at 1.06 crimes per hundred people per year. Now, the way you compare that, the average is someplace between four and five crimes per 100 per year. And when you get to your major cities, you're in 18, 20, 22 crimes per hundred per year. Our crime in this county is currently at a 51-year low.

And really, we are really excited about that. And I give all the credit to the men and women of the sheriff's office that work very hard, as well as our community. If they see something or hear something, they say something; they trust us to do what's right. And as a result, they call us, and we respond and put bad guys in jail.

Marlin Detweiler:

Well, I appreciate that about you and your humility, but I know that your leadership has had a lot to do with it. And I am very grateful to be a resident of a county that you watch out for. At a recent gathering, you told a story that made me laugh, but it illustrates the approach that you've taken to crime in Polk County. Would you mind relating the Coke story?

Grady Judd:

I'd be more than happy to. I was given an illustration of why is crime so high in California and it's so low in Florida. What's the difference? And so I went into details about how California has made the possession of heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and fentanyl, a misdemeanor. They have made possession of marijuana legal. In fact, theft of $900 down to zero is a misdemeanor.

And they don't put people in jail. So you have people that commit crime, then you have the “me too” people that commit crime now that otherwise wouldn't because the governor, the House, the Senate, the mayors, the city commissioners, the people elected in California allow crime to occur. They allow it to occur by not holding people responsible and accountable.

And that's why crime is running rampant and is very high in California. And then I gave the illustration of it's just the opposite here. And here's the example. If you walk into a convenience store in California, Los Angeles, or San Francisco, and you take a soda, are they going to call the sheriff's office or the police department? Probably not.

They quit calling because it doesn't do any good. Nobody goes to jail. They can't take you to jail for stealing a soda. The worst they can do is give you a citation or a ticket. But for most police agencies they won't even respond. “What do you mean? Calling us for a $2.79 cent theft? Lock your stuff up if you don't want people to steal it.” That's the attitude in California. So people steal a lot of stuff. In fact, I saw on the news just a week or two ago Wal-Mart is having to lock up their underwear to keep it from being stolen. Now, I'm not talking about expensive underwear. I'm talking about Wal-Mart underwear. Whitey-tighties.

Marlin Detweiler:

I'm sorry. It's hard to take this seriously!

Grady Judd:

No, it is really hard to take it seriously. But that's what's what's happening. So then I explained that Here's the difference. There was a man that went into a WaWa station, and he got a $2 –

Marlin Detweiler:

Let me just stop you. And I know what WaWa is, and it's a big convenience store chain here. But out in California or in Texas, they don't know what it is yet, but they're going to learn it. But it's a big convenience store chain.

Grady Judd:

WaWa is a big convenience store change that. And they're impressive. Very impressive.

Marlin Detweiler:

They are.

Grady Judd:

So this guy goes into WaWa, and he gets him a $2.79 cent soda, and he walks past the point of sale, and the young lady says, “Sir, excuse me, you forgot to pay for your soda.” And he said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know.” And he continued toward the front door. So she followed him to the front door and said, “Sir, you've got to pay for your soda before you leave the store.”

He said, “Yeah, yeah, I know.” And he pushes out the door and goes to his car. She follows him to the parking lot and said, “Sir, you've got to pay for your soda. You have stolen our property. It's not yours if you don't pay for it.” He said, “Yeah, I know.” And he got in his car, and he drove away.

Now understand, in California, they wouldn't even call. Or if they did call, the police probably wouldn't respond. So he drives off. She records the type and color of car and the tag number and a description of what he's wearing. And she calls us the sheriff's office. So my deputies, who I brag are simply the very best there are, sees this car driving south on US Highway 27, so we stop it.

The man is very polite to our deputy in the beginning when our deputy asks for his driver's license, and then he says, “Can you tell me why you stopped me and asked for my driver's license?” He said, “Yes, sir.” And he pointed to the console. He said, “You see that drink there in the console? It's $2.79, and you didn't pay for it.”

The man immediately becomes indignant, and he says, “You stopped me because I didn't pay for a $2.79 drink? You stopped me. You interrupted my life because I didn't pay for a $2.79 drink?”

And my deputy was very polite and said, “No, sir, I stopped you because you're a thief. The value of the property makes no difference. But, sir, if you would step out of the car,”

And he said, “Well, why step out of the car?”

And our deputy said, “Well, it's much easier to get these handcuffs on you if you're not sitting down.”

And he said, “Handcuffs, Why are you going to put me in handcuffs?”

“Well, sir, we're going to arrest you for stealing and take you to jail.”

“I can't believe you're going to take me to jail.”

“Yes, sir. That's exactly what we're going to do.”

So we handcuffed him, and he said, “What about my car?”

We said, “Sir, we're going to call a rotation wrecker to be on our rotation list. They have to have a gated and secured compound. Your car will be safe until you get out of jail and can retrieve it. But, sir, by the way, the bond for this is $500. And if you don't have the $500, you can hire a bondsman for $50, much more than $2.79.”

I'd like to point out as he's putting him in the car. So, as they get to the jail, the guy says, “Where's my car? And the deputy told him and he said, Sir, as soon as you bond out of jail for $500, you can go get your car. But, sir, I think the tow bill is going to be much more than $2.79.”

Now, understand he's not even been to court yet. And a typical court would go like this: “Sir, you are pleading no contest to taking this soda. Okay. You're going to reimburse WaWa for $2.79. You're going to pay $150 fine. You're going to reimburse the sheriff's office $100 for investigative course costs. And you can pay $50 in court fees.”

But I'd like to ask you, as soon as he bonded out of jail, got his car, which probably cost him 200, $225 to get it out of lockup. Do you think he wanted to go to a store and steal another soda? So, it all depends on the accountability level and the responsibility level that we put on society.

And when you quit holding this person accountable, and his buddies see that he's not being held accountable, then the “me toos” kick in, and his buddies do the same thing. So, at the end of the day, we hold the thief accountable, and we discourage the others who won't do it because they don't want to get in the same trouble that they just saw their buddy get in.

Marlin Detweiler:

Now, that's to think about that in an area that doesn't operate that way as a change, what does it take to change? That's a tide change now, not just for California but for many places. How does that work?

Grady Judd:

Well, you first and foremost, your legislators, your House members, your Senate members, your governor, your mayor, your city commission, your county commission, depending on the structure in that state, have to make the change. And if they're not willing to make the change because they created the environment to begin with, then you have to change your representatives, and you can't change one or two. You have to change a voting critical mass.

But I don't understand why your elected representatives think more of the criminals than they do of the honest, law-abiding citizens. in Florida our legislators recognize that people have to be responsible and accountable, and we're looking out for the best interests of the law-abiding citizens and holding the criminals responsible for their conduct. And that's why our crime is low.

Marlin Detweiler:

Do you see any tidal movement, any change where people are willing to say, “You what you do, this model works, let's do it?” Is there any momentum that way?

Grady Judd:

Well, I spoke to a guy yesterday who winters in Florida, and he lives in one of the boroughs of New York City, and he said, we don't want that crime here. I said, Sir, but the people you elect to public office want that crime here, because if they didn't want that crime here, they wouldn't change the rules so that people could get away with crime.

They would want them held accountable. They would want them to appear in court. They would want them to face the threat of jail if they stole somebody's property. So even Gavin Newsom in California is the one with his legislature that created this environment for all this crime. And his predecessor as well. He even said last week, well, we may have to look at this event that's happening in California, causing Wal-Mart to have to lock up the underwear.

You think? Duh! I mean, y'all created the rules that allowed these people to run wild over the victims and steal their property. And you think you need to do something about it? You caused this problem, and that's why they are where they are in California because the criminals aren't held accountable and responsible. And then the “Me too” kicks in.

Marlin Detweiler:

Yeah. Our audience is an audience that is almost substantially a Christian audience, clearly embracing Judeo-Christian values. They don't want crime. They don't want to perpetuate it. What would you tell us that we could and should do to help protect our families our children, and to see a tidal wave change to what we've experienced in America in the last few years?

Grady Judd:

Sure. What you're seeing today, this disregard for the law, this loosening of the rules, is incremental efforts that have been going on for several years. What you have to do is understand that the government's not going to change this on their own. They can't. It's going to have to be the houses of worship and the Christian churches that change it.

And you change it by making everyone aware in the community, and you start by linking with the other churches and the other houses of faith, not just the Christian faith, but also the Jewish faith, and say, look, either these representatives have got to change these laws and hold people accountable and lock people up and create some accountability for their criminal conduct, or we've got to in mass change those people and remove them from office. It will take some time, but it starts with the houses of worship and the God-fearing people. And that's what's going to change it. If you wait around for the government officials on their own to change it and you're not up in arms about it. It's never going to change. It's only going to get worse.

Marlin Detweiler:

Yeah, hard to imagine it getting worse in some places, too. I want to say some of the videos that are online with you and I encourage our audience to Google your name and to see those. And I see it just for the audience. The name is Grady Judd. There are some great, great stories, some great recordings and interviews that really document well what you have been able to accomplish in your tenure as the sheriff. Can you relate some other stories for us?

Grady Judd:

Sure. I like to talk about my morning briefings. And if you search me up and, once again, do a search engine or Google me up, you'll see Briefings With the Sheriff every morning. I recognize someone or some business, small business in the community with my coffee cup. They send a coffee cup in and I brag about and support the small businesses.

They don't pay me. Understand there's no money being made here on our part, but I really do like the mom-and-pop businesses. And then I talk about the crazy criminal, if you will, of the day, the morning briefing. And this week, for example, I talked about America's Most Wanted. He was an evil, nasty man. He was wanted for two counts of sexual battery on a child under 12.

And in the state of Florida, that's a capital offense. He'd been on the run since 2022. America's Most Wanted just covered him in the last week or two. And he made the mistake of coming to Polk County. And we received a tip and he was on Country Haven Drive, hiding out. Well, maybe he thought it was a haven from law enforcement.

But here's what happened as we surrounded the house. It was this last Sunday night, very late. It was still and quiet. And this suspicious noise broke the silence of the evening. It sounded like someone trying to get away. So we circled a shed in the backyard, and there we found our perpetrator. We took him into custody, and he told us his name was Jose.

Well, we didn't believe his name was Jose, so we used a fingerprint scanner, and it identified him as our culprit. That was a child predator, a pedophile that had sexually battered little girls under 12. And we took him into custody and locked him up. And he said he was trying to get away, but he heard the dog and was afraid of the dog.

So one more time our canines helped us take someone into custody peaceably. Yeah, but I'll give you one last one if you have time.

Marlin Detweiler:

Sure. We've got plenty of time with it.

Grady Judd:

There was another guy that was on the lam running from us. Did I mention to you that his last name was Lam?

When we circled around him, he ran from us, and we told him, “Stop. Stop, or we'll turn the canine loose!”

And he continued to run. We turned the canine loose; it bit him. We took him into custody. We asked him, “Why did you run? I know you got a long criminal history, but why did you run?”

He said, “Every time I see green,” which is the color of our uniforms, “I run. In fact, this is the third canine that's bitten me.” And he named the three dogs that had bitten. He asked for this one's name. So he brags of the canine dogs that bite him when he runs from us. So he's locked up in the county jail. And at the end of the day, we wonder, is he going to go for four bites? The next time he gets out, we don't know. That's up to him. He makes the choice.

Marlin Detweiler:

That's hilarious. What would you say? We're you know, our audience is dealing with families, with children in kindergarten through 12th grade, and they're looking at career opportunities and possibilities. What would you say to someone who might consider law enforcement as a career?

Grady Judd:

We would love to have them as a star on our team. I tell folks, it's an honorable business. Does it have some dangers involved? Yes. But our job statistically is not as dangerous as if you go into construction. Is it emotionally stressful? Yes, it is. But I can tell you from doing this an entire lifetime, my heart is fulfilled knowing that when I wake up in the morning before I come home and go to bed at night, I'm going to help someone.

You see, 80% of our day is not fighting crime. 80% of our day is serving people and helping those that are distressed or in trouble, or need help. So I know we're going to help somebody every day when we come to work. And that works for me. So, if you have a young son or daughter or a relative or you are interested in law enforcement, go to your local community, or move to Polk County.

We'd love to put you through the academy, pay for the academy, pay you to go to the academy, and then allow you to protect the community and help us continue to drive down the crime rate.

Marlin Detweiler:

Do you have any thoughts for those who are already in law enforcement but feel like their hands are tied in ways that they know will cause them not to be as successful as they could be?

Grady Judd:

I am significantly concerned when you look at the classic example: two police officers in New York City are beaten down by a gang, and they managed to arrest four of them. They're illegals. They are here seeking asylum. They are taken to lockup, to jail, and then they release them from custody without even having to post a bond. And they flee. That's not looking out or protecting your law enforcement officers. If your community is not supporting and protecting your law enforcement officers and you’d love to be a law enforcement officer, leave that state. Go to a state where they care for law enforcement and support and protect you so you can support and protect the community.

Because when the government does not protect the agency, the police agency, and the police officers, then you and the community certainly aren't safe. You're at risk. If you can't change it, young men and women who want to get into law enforcement come to a state like Florida, come to a state that cares for and looks out for and protects their law enforcement officers while they're working really, really hard in a really scary environment today out to keep the community safe and reduce crime.

Marlin Detweiler:

The circumstances and the culture in which we live in America was really an unknown to me anyway, was a very unanticipated place with regard to crime and immigration issues, drug issues. And it is so refreshing to hear a vision for how to see that repaired and done right.

And you have done such a wonderful job. We have time for one more story, if you've got one for us.

Grady Judd:

Well, I like to talk about the young men and women who want to enter into law enforcement, but they're not too sure. I like to talk about when I was a little bitty fella, my mother bought me a policeman's outfit and then had the old eight-millimeter camera. She videoed me in that policeman's outfit with my little tie on, and there was this punching bag she bought me that was the criminal.

And I would hold him down and declare that he was under arrest and take him to jail. Well, the reality of it is it's an honorable profession to be in law enforcement. And we are there to make sure that the bullies of society, the criminals of society, don't run over society.

And I'll tell one last story. When we arrest someone and we take them to our booking facility, they’re about four locked doors in and occasionally whenever they have to stay with us, someone resists changing into their orange clothes so we can put their street clothes in a bag and secure it until they're released.

So they say I'm not going to put that orange uniform on. And we said, “Sir, you must understand that if you don't put this uniform on, then we're going to have to put it on you for you. And that means we're going to have to take your clothes off. And if you resist us, they'll probably get torn and they won't be where you can wear them later.”

Still, the kinds of people that we arrest and lock up are so hard-headed despite being four locked doors in. And there's deputies in the jail telling them they'll still fight. They'll still end up with their clothes shredded to get them off. So, at the end of the day, we deal with the kind of people that, despite all the authority all the responsibility to keep the community safe, the illustration is the kind of people that we deal with still won't comply.

So, in this particular case, which was not so long ago, we told the guy, “Now let us explain this one more time. If you don't take your street clothes off and put these orange clothes on, we're going to take them off of you. And they're not going to be worth wearing when we get them off.”

So we took his clothes off, and certainly he had some buttons popped and some shirt sleeves ripped. And then he looked at us with total surprise that we would put him in those oranges, even though he didn't want to wear them. We just explained to him, “Hey, you're not at the closed door. You don't get to pick and choose. It's oranges. And now, when you get out of jail, you can go get yourself a new shirt because this one won't look so good on you anymore with all the buttons ripped off.”

Marlin Detweiler:

Well, thank you so much. I have appreciated your service. I appreciate your time today as well. What you're doing deserves to be known and emulated. And I hope we can contribute a little to what you're doing. Or in a much bigger way, one day to seeing our nation once again to live with a proper understanding of what the laws are for and how they protect us. You've done a wonderful job of communicating that here. Thank you.

Grady Judd:

Thank you. Well, keep all law enforcement officers in your prayers every day. We're here for you to keep you safe. But we need the energy and the strength of our Lord and Savior to protect us and build a hedge of protection around us, and our promise is in return we will keep you safe.

Marlin Detweiler:

Amen. And God bless. Folks, thanks for joining us with Grady Judd, the sheriff of Polk County, Florida, also known as America's sheriff. You join us for this episode of Veritas Vox. Until next time. Thank you.