Oral Histories

Melvin S. Dalton

b.1923

Mel & Ida Dalton

Q: Who was the mayor at this time?

A: Winferd Bunce.

Q: Who had been the chief of police before you?

A: A guy by the name of, I believe, Raymond Seismore.

Q: Had he been chief a long time.

A: No, he hadn’t been here very long and I don’t know very much about him. I just know that there were some problems and he left.

Q: How large was this new department that you had just inherited?

A: When I inherited it, probably 2 people and one patrol car. The first thing they did was to send me to the police officers standard and training school, which you have to have. So here I am a brand new chief and I’m trying to go to school up there. I got one rookie and one guy that had been on for a little while down here. The department grew by the time I got fired; I probably had 6 men and about 3 or 4 patrol cars.

Q: Where were your offices located?

A: Right in the courthouse.

Q: But it was Moab City, not Grand County?

A: Moab City Police and the Grand County Sheriff’s Department. They’ve been separate forever.

Q: You now have your training done and you come back. What did you do to change the position or increase your people?

A: Well, the town was growing and there was just a definite need for more patrolmen. I worked on that, and I worked on getting them better pay so when they came, they’d stay. I think as a rule that policemen have always been underpaid, and, as a rule, when councils cut back, seems like they always look at the police department and the fire department as things to cut back on. At least they used to. You had to fight for every penny you got. You had to fight for every raise you got. During most of the time while I was chief, we got our wages kept up. They weren’t quite as good as some of the others around, but they were a lot better than some, too. And then I tried to get them into all of the schools they had around. Utah does put on a lot of training sessions for policemen and I’d try to get somebody to every one of those. I tried to go to all of the chief’s conventions and stuff like that so I could kind of keep up and know who the chiefs were and know who could help you when certain things came up. I think I did a pretty good job on some things and a lousy job on others.

Q: What did you do a lousy job on?

A: I think maybe I don’t agree on the marijuana thing. The drug scene was just coming on big. The drug culture to me kind of almost made a game out of it against the police. And I was going to show them they couldn’t do that. In doing that, I pushed some things that probably shouldn’t have been pushed. I think that drugs ought to be handled and people should be arrested for dealing in them. I think that marijuana is not the harmless little thing that everybody thinks now days, well some will talk about how it’s nothing, you know. But it is something. If marijuana does nothing else, the thing that I notice most about it is that it dulls people’s conscience. People lie that wouldn’t lie; people would have girls that would have sex that wouldn’t have had sex without the influence of marijuana. Just something about marijuana that makes them think that everything they do is okay. It’s okay to lie.

Q: So was there a big drug population during the 60s and 70s?

A: Yes, there was. I think that there was a lot more here than people realized. I made quite a few drug arrests that kind of opened the eyes of a lot of people. I had the state narcotics task force come down and set up their little things a time or two. Mainly just to show, I mean by this time I knew we were not going to control it all. I felt like people needed to know at least what I felt was going on.

Q: As a rural community, was most of it being imported or was it actually being grown here?

A: There is always a little bit being grown here, but most of it came in.

Q: During your tenure as police chief were there any big dramatic cases and things that hit the headlines?

A: I don’t want to mention any names, but there were a couple that kind of shook people and the town up.

Q: The missing girl at Dead Horse Point?

A: That was before I was in there. That is still an interesting story. I think John Stocks was sheriff then.

Q: Any other dramatic things during you time as chief of police?

A: While I was chief of police we had one murder and that was Annie Woodward. I always felt bad that nothing ever came that it was solved, but it never was. That’s probably the one thing that was left undone that I would have liked to have seen finished up.

Q: With the town the size it was then, were most things more routine then basically. You probably had more traffic then by that point. Were there mostly traffic or civil disturbances? Did you have a lot of theft?

A: Mining people in general, I always looked at them as good people. They are hard working; they drink hard and they play hard. And they can get in trouble and they did. There were fights and a few things like that from the mining people. During the period of time that I was in there we never did; I don’t feel like we had any major problems with them.

Q: Now you left being chief of police and went back to Atlas? You said you were in security?

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