50 years protecting Polk County
BY: TERESA MARTÍNEZ
Grady Judd is, without a doubt, the most beloved and respected sheriff in the history of Polk County and one of the most famous in the nation. In February 2022, the Association of Sheriffs of the Largest Counties in America declared him: "Sheriff of the Year." His unwavering dedication and leadership to maintain public order and the well-being of his community have earned him the respect not only of those who comply with the law, but also of those who violate it. Sheriff Judd is known for expressing his opinion without fear of telling the truth, about any situation or person who threatens the community and for making the offenses pay without regard.
Grady Judd was born in Lakeland, Florida in 1954. He began his career in the office of the Sheriff of Polk County, first as a volunteer and officially at the tender age of 18, on July 21, 1972, he began working as an emergency call operator in the Department of Telecommunications. Two years later, he was transferred to the Patrol Unit and from there he quickly rose through all ranks, from corporal to colonel, until his candidacy for sheriff in 2004. Residents of Polk County chose him fervently and re-elected him in 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2022.
"For me, being a Sheriff has been something innate, like a divine mandate," he proudly told us. "Since I can remember, I always knew that I would be the Sheriff of Polk County; I never contemplated studying another career." Grady began his studies in Political Science at Polk State College, has a degree and a master's degree in Criminal Justice from Rollins College, and graduated from the National FBI Academy. In 2015, Webber International University awarded him an Honorary Doctorate in Business Administration and in 2020, Warner University awarded him an Honorary Doctorate in Humanities.
His passion for protecting the community, especially the well-being of children and the elderly, has made him receive countless local, state and national awards and recognitions.
"When you work with ethics, honesty and high moral values, always obeying the 10 commandments, any work is destined for success. I am very grateful for the support I have received for half a century and I hope to continue my leadership for many more years. There is no greater honor than being the Sheriff of my county."
In addition to his official side, our sheriff is known for being an extremely kind, charismatic and even comical person. His videos on Instagram are recognized worldwide. One of his favorite hobbies is photography capturing the extraordinary beauty of our flora and fauna. Grady Judd also celebrates his golden wedding anniversary this year, that is, his 50th anniversary with Marisa, the love of his life, with whom he has two children and 13 grandchildren.
10 important facts about the Polk County Sheriff's Office:
1. Polk County is the fourth largest county in the state, with more than 2,000 square miles, larger than the state of Rhode Island! The jurisdiction of the Sheriff's Office covers 65% of Polk County (approximately 480,000 people). Its Emergency Communications Center answers 911 calls and dispatches to all police and fire/paramedical departments, with the exception of the cities of Lakeland, Bartow and Lake Alfred.
2. In 2021, crime in the county decreased by 3.1% compared to 2020, and the crime rate is currently 1.18 crimes per 1,000 residents. This is the lowest crime rate in our jurisdiction in the last 50 years.
3. The Sheriff's Office offers services to six municipalities in the county: Dundee, Eagle Lake, Fort Meade, Frostproof, Mulberry and Polk City. Each of these cities has its own Sheriff's Office seal with a supervisor and police officers who patrol only inside them.
4. The Emergency Communications Center answered 318,685 emergency calls to 911 in 2021 and 373,705 non-emergency/administrative calls.
5. All Sheriff's staff, including the telecommunications area, are certified to intervene in crisis according to the nationally recognized "M Memphis Model". This training allows them to recognize signs of illness or mental deterioration, and enables them to provide an excellent service to the mentally ill and in crisis.
6. Sheriff Grady Judd believes in the importance of education and has therefore put in place several incentives for his staff to continue their higher education. The agency reimburses full-time workers for university studies and once they obtain their degree, it pays them an annual incentive. The Sheriff's office currently has 270 graduates, 371 graduates, 186 with master's degrees and 3 with doctorates.
7. The Sheriff's Office has a fleet of more than 1,400 vehicles. The Special Operations Division also has several types of boats with which it patrols the more than 550 lakes in the county. It also has special vehicles for swamps, such as buggies, large trucks with cranes, mobile command centers, as well as helicopters and airplanes. They often provide support to police departments in other cities and the sheriff's offices in the surrounding counties.
8. The agency has more than 3,200 volunteers. In 2021, volunteers worked 119,739 hours, saving taxpayers more than 3.1 million dollars.
9. The Sheriff organizes community events where citizens can meet and talk with the agents who command each district. These events are known as "Breakfast with Badges" and are usually held on Saturdays. The events are announced on the social networks of the Sheriff's Office.
10. The Sheriff's Office has a job available and is looking for bilingual people. There are opportunities from part-time civilian positions to full-time professional positions. Among the benefits offered are health insurance (which includes vision and dental), paid vacation, sick leave, maternity leave, life insurance, employee assistance program, payment of incentives and reimbursements for education, compensation to workers and enrollment in the Florida state retirement system.