By Dave Pearce
Melvin Buchanan, former Posey County Sheriff and current chief deputy, celebrated 34 years as a Posey County deputy on January 1, 2013. On Friday, June 14, 2013, Buchanan hung up his badge and gun and once he has taken the remainder of his vacation time, will be officially retired from the Posey County Sheriff’s Department.
“This is a ‘bittersweet’ piece of information that I am passing along, notifying you of the upcoming retirement of Chief Deputy Melvin Buchanan,” Posey County Sheriff Greg Oeth told merit board members last weekend. “In a private meeting on May 31, Melvin gave notice of his intent to retire from the Posey County Sheriff’s Department. Melvin has served the citizens of this county for over 34 years, beginning his Sheriff’s Department career in January of 1979.”
“I have just tried to remember to try to treat people the way I want to be treated,” Buchanan said of his longevity as an officer.
Police work is the only work he has ever known. And while he sometimes wonders what it may have been like to be, perhaps a farmer, he looks at his wife and quickly realizes that if he had not stayed in Posey County, he probably would not have met his biggest supporter and companion, his wife Suzanne.
Buchanan’s “common-sense” approach to his job has helped him gain the respect of most Posey County residents and his co-workers.
“As most of you know, Melvin came to the Sheriff’s Department after being appointed a Mount Vernon City Police Officer,” Oeth continued. “Melvin has served in every position here, including five years as Sheriff. He has contributed much to this administration and will be missed as a resource of wisdom and knowledge.”
Buchanan graduated from Mount Vernon High School in 1973 and had wanted to be a police officer ever since he began researching information regarding the job when he was very young. Buchanan joined the Mount Vernon Police Department (under Wilfred Clark) for 15 months after he returned from a three-year stint as a Military Policeman in 1977.
He joined the Posey County Sheriff’s Department on Jan. 1, 1978, under then-sheriff Carl Dick. He was offered an opportunity to become a U.S. Marshal in the earlier days of his career but turned it down. He has served in various areas of the department and even served as sheriff for the remainder of one term and was elected for a second term.
“I enjoyed the five years of being sheriff and I don’t regret anything,” he explained. “But I really don’t miss it either. I think Suzanne enjoyed the politics to a point. She enjoyed getting out.”
With things changing so much in law enforcement, it seems to be almost a full-time job just keeping up with what is going on in the field. But wife Suzanne believes her husband is up to the challenge.
“He’s always read a lot,” Suzanne said of Buchanan. “He has a whole lot up here (pointing to his head.) He reads all the police magazines and reads all about the latest statutes.”
But life as the spouse of a police officer is not always a bed of roses either, although Suzanne said that’s the only life the couple has ever known. They have been married for 26 years.
“I like the fact that he is in Posey County and he is able to come home when he gets off from work,” she said. “Although sometimes we don’t get to see each other and have to communicate by leaving notes for each other when he’s working different shifts. But I feel safer here in Posey County.”
But Suzanne has plenty to keep her busy, as well. She serves in the education department at St. Mary’s Hospital after working in ICU for many years and on the endoscopy unit. She was promoted to the education area in September of 2008.
As for their daughters, Buchanan said he has always done everything possible to keep them from being involved with his work. Although he surmises that during their high school years they probably faced some things, they never complained. Daughters are Marie and Michelle.
”I think that knowing that their dad was in law enforcement and knowing how disappointed we would be in them has helped them make better choices over the years,” Suzanne said.
So what has Buchanan seen happen in the 34 years he has spent on the job?
“We’re much busier now,” Buchanan said, while still touting the exploits of new technology that has been developed. “Especially since cell phones. It seems like we get a lot more calls over really small ‘Mickey Mouse’ things that we wouldn’t have gotten before cell phones. But when I started, our equipment consisted of a revolver, a shotgun and a Billy Club. Our equipment is much better today.”
But while Buchanan knows how much busier he and his co-workers are, he also attributes the increase in activity not necessarily to an increase in the crime rate but to an increase in the shear number of people who now live in Posey County. He also indicates that education has played a key role and that women (and men, for that matter) have learned that there is protection out there for them and they are more likely to report cases of abuse now than when he began the job in the late 1970s. The volume of domestic violence calls continues to increase. It’s just easier to report crimes now.
When asked the toughest part of his job, the worst always seemed to center around things that have happened on Interstate 64.
“There was a chase on Interstate 64 back a few years with a trooper and Bob Lacey,” Buchanan said. “That was somewhat enlightening. He was a guy who had allegedly kidnapped a woman and was coming across the Interstate from somewhere around Louisville. By the time he got here, he had already gotten rid of the woman. He pointed the gun at me. As it turned out, he wrecked and we later caught him. That was an eye-opener, though.”
The other things that came to mind were multiple fatality accidents and multiple accidents during storms and bad weather, predominantly on the Interstate.
On the other side of the coin, Buchanan said highlights include people coming back to say ‘Thank You’ for doing one thing or another. Otherwise, as are most public service jobs, it is a thankless job.
Buchanan said the best thing he feels he has to offer now is advice and instructions to younger officers. And he wouldn’t even mind it if someone younger were to come along whose ambition was to be sheriff, he would enjoy being able to help them.
“His time here has played a formidable part in the transition and modernization of this department,” Oeth concluded of Buchanan.
Buchanan was raised in Marrs Township and lost his father (George) in a refinery accident in 1969. His mother is 83 (as of Christmas Eve). His great uncle, Malcolm Buchanan, served as a Posey County Sheriff when Melvin was very young.
Besides his immediate family, Buchanan has a sister in Evansville. Suzanne graduated from Perry Central High School, the daughter of Bob and Doris Harding. The two met on a blind date arranged by Sharon and Larry Wentzel of Mount Vernon.
“I would still recommend this job to a young person but you have to be a special kind of person to do this job,” Buchanan said. “It’s not cut out for everyone.”
But it has been an almost perfect fit for Buchanan, and for the people of Posey County.
By Dave Pearce
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