Detective Ross Mellinger has been named chief deputy of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department by Sheriff Tony Boggs.
Boggs said he believes he made the right choice in appointing Mellinger to the position.
“I believe his youth and enthusiasm will be a great asset,” Boggs said. “The relationship he has with his fellow officers is very good. Ross has done more felony drug work as an individual than many officers in the state.”
Mellinger has been a member of the department since 2002 and, prior to that, worked in corrections at the former Jackson County Jail starting in 1996. He was first hired as a corrections officer by former Jackson County Sheriff Janette McVey.
When the county jail was closed and inmates were shifted to the West Virginia Regional Jail system, Mellinger said he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his career.
“I was fortunate they were hiring here at the time,” Mellinger said of the sheriff’s department.
Mellinger became a deputy under former Sheriff Len Jones.
“Looking back, I can still remember the interview; Sheriff Jones was in a hurry to get out of the office that day. It was really brief, even though there was a lot riding on it,” he said. “Looking back, he probably had to go and mow.”
Mellinger was the first deputy to go through the department’s newly revamped field-training program. He credits his subsequent success in the department to getting a good start in the program.
“I think that’s where a lot of officers can fail in their career. They don’t get off on the right foot after the academy,” he said.
Mellinger said he believes is someone can get through the academy, they can find a niche spot in law enforcement. But transitioning from the West Virginia State Police Academy to working on the job can be overwhelming without a good field-training officer.
“Some places don’t even use field-training officers. They just kind of throw you to the wolves,” he said.
At first, working as a deputy was just a good job to allow Mellinger to support his family. But shortly after completing his field training, Mellinger got a taste of what makes working in law enforcement great.
“At first, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was just happy to have a job. I was 21, newly married with a new kid,” he said.
Boggs, who was a ranking officer on the department at the time, asked Mellinger if he would like to accompany him to interview an inmate at North Central Regional Jail in Doddridge County about an open case in Jackson County.
“So we climbed into this God-awful two-door Explorer and went to Doddridge County,” Mellinger said.
During the interviews, Boggs and Mellinger got enough information to break the case and allow them to get search warrants for multiple locations in the county. Mellinger remembers typing the warrants on a laptop computer on the drive back to Jackson County, with Boggs telling him what to write.
After they received the warrants from the court, Mellinger and other officers served them on multiple dwellings in the county.
While serving a warrant in one location, Mellinger had to help chase down a fleeing suspect.
“After that night, I knew I could make a career out of this,” he said.
Mellinger cut his teeth on the department during the methamphetamine epidemic of the early 2000s.
“We were really then. At the time, it was all new to West Virginia,” he said.
It was a time when people were manufacturing their own methamphetamine in makeshift laboratories in all kinds of locations. Police were busting labs in houses, garages, barns and outbuildings -- almost any type of structure imaginable. Mobile labs also were common and could be found in vehicles, some were even portable enough to fit into backpacks.
One of the main ingredients of methamphetamine could be found in certain cold medicines, so law enforcement agencies were busy working with businesses in the community to monitor for large purchases of these and other items. This was before regulations came along that limited the amount of cold medicine that could be purchased at one time.
“We were networking with stores and the community really had to fight it. We were getting calls daily. It was the main reason we set up the tip line,” Mellinger said.
Later, Mellinger became the department’s first K9 handler in 12 years. Community support for the program was strong, he said.
“The more we did, the more they wanted us to do,” Mellinger said.
Mellinger was a K9 officer with his partner, Jup, a German shepherd, for the next six years before the dog was eventually retired. Together, the duo was responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of seizures and dozens of felony arrests.
“I absolutely had a ball,” Mellinger said.
Mellinger said he is looking forward to this new phase of his career. He said it will be a challenge to adjust to the supervisory role, but it is one he is looking forward to meeting head-on.
“It’s going to take a while to get used to. A lot of people here have actually been my supervisor,” he said. “I’ve got some big shoes to fill.”
“I think it’s really important to emphasize the cohesiveness of the department working with other agencies,” Mellinger continued.