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story.lead_photo.caption Sgt. Jay Murdock of the Clinton Police Department was named Van Buren County Outstanding Law Enforcement Officer of the Year by Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. An Air Force veteran, Murdock became a sheriff’s deputy when he got out of the military in 2005, and he has been a police officer for seven years. - Photo by William Harvey

Sgt. Jay Murdock of the Clinton Police Department couldn’t stand the thought of a kid going a whole summer without a bicycle after his got stolen, so Murdock spent his own money to buy the child a new one.

That’s just one of the stories that helped make Murdock the Van Buren County Outstanding Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.

He received the honor from Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge at the annual awards and recognition luncheon at the 2017 Arkansas Law Enforcement Summit at Camp Robinson. Rutledge named one winner from each county in Arkansas.

“It just kind of highlights the good things our department is doing,” Murdock said of the honor. “For me, it’s kind of embarrassing, really. I just come in every day and do my job and go home. The guys are doing a bang-up job. We’re pushing to get more training, get better equipment. It’s not just about me; it’s about my department.”

Murdock just celebrated his seventh anniversary with the Clinton Police Department, and he spent five years at the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office before that.

The 37-year-old was born in Heber Springs, but he grew up primarily in Clinton and Oklahoma,

where he graduated from high school. His mother cleaned houses for a living; his father was a restaurant chef.

Murdock enlisted in the Air Force in 1999 and was stationed at McCord Air Force Base in Washington. He was a heavy-equipment operator.

“I was deployed in Operation Southern Watch, when we were enforcing the no-fly zones in Iraq. I was there the night Iraqi Freedom started. I was watching airplanes fly off to go to Iraq. I didn’t find out until the next morning; I just knew something was going on when every airplane on base took off at the same time,” he said.

He was deployed to Iraq for almost six months.

“It was interesting. Unfortunately, I got stationed at Abu Ghraib prison right after the scandal broke out,” he said, referring to human-rights violations against detainees. “We deployed to support the Army to drive convoys between Abu Ghraib and Baghdad.”

He left the military in 2005 as a staff sergeant and decided to became a law enforcement officer.

“I had about a one-month lapse when I hung out and fished and enjoyed spring in Arkansas,” he said. Then he joined the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office.

“I wanted to continue in government. One of the core values the Air Force instills in you is service before self. I thought joining law enforcement would be really interesting; it would be a continuation of helping my community,” he said.

“The best part was I was a K9 handler for a while,” he said. Murdock’s partner was a single-purpose narcotic-

detection dog named Kilo, a yellow Labrador.

“He’s living in my house now,” Murdock said. “He got retired. When I left, they passed him to another handler, and he worked another couple of years.”

Murdock and Kilo worked together to find a lot of meth labs, “nothing super huge like pounds and pounds of drugs,” Murdock said.

He said they spent a lot of time in the school district looking for drugs.

Although Murdock enjoyed his tenure at the Sheriff’s Office, he then joined the Clinton Police Department.

“It’s like asking if you like chocolate-chip ice cream or mint-chocolate-chip better,” he said.

The Police Department had better benefits and a smaller area to work, Murdock said. “I didn’t have to spend my whole night driving from one side of the county to the other,” he said.

Once again, he worked with a police dog, Saxon.

“I chose to do it. We ended up raising the money for him solely through private donations. I was a dual-purpose K9 handler — criminal apprehension and narcotic detection — and he also did tracking,” Murdock said.

Saxon died unexpectedly.

“We had worked a whole bunch. I guess he’d been sick, and I never saw it,” Murdock said. “He had passed away in the night.”

Murdock is also an instructor for the Police Department, and last week he helped teach a jail-standards course for the Sheriff’s Office in Clinton.

He’s a certified criminal investigator, and he’s on call for cases.

“It’s frustrating, heartbreaking,” he said of the role. “It’s frustrating when you can’t solve the case as quickly as you’d like to, especially when somebody got hurt or injured. It’s heartbreaking when you work crimes against children; It tears you up.”

He said he has worked cases involving sexual assault on or battery of a child.

As a police officer, he sees a little bit of everything.

“We work quite a few domestic [calls],” he said. “Myself and one of the county guys saved a lady who tried to hang herself in a bathroom a couple of months ago.”

He said the woman, who was about 55 years old, called and said she wasn’t feeling well, Murdock said. Shortly afterward, a call came in that she was trying to kill herself.

When Murdock and the other officer arrived, the woman was near death. She was transported by ambulance to the hospital, then transferred to a mental-health facility.

“She called us about a week later and thanked us for saving her life. She’s a new grandma. She sounded pretty excited when she called me,” he said.

“It’s just a thumbnail sketch of what every cop in this county does every day,” Murdock said. “It’s one of those things: These guys I work with … five of us can be sitting here, we can tell you a story, and the next guy could tell you a crazier story.”

Clinton Police Chief John Willoughby said Murdock “goes all out, above and beyond.”

“He’s my sergeant, and everything I’ve asked him to do, he’s done it,” Willoughby said. “He helps me out a lot.”

Willoughby mentioned the story of Murdock using his own money to buy a bicycle for a child. He said Murdock does a lot of things that people don’t see.

“I’m not one for the limelight,” Murdock said.

He said his goal is to serve 28 years in law enforcement. That’s 16 more years of good deeds.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or

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