Experience matters. Savvy, instinct and gut feelings come into play when something just does not seem right. Jeff Monroe’s instincts and gut feelings were spot on when he prevented a 75-year-old Knoxville woman from being scammed out of $19,000.
It happened on March 6, 2018, when a call from the 911 dispatcher said a robbery was in progress at the home of an elderly woman. Monroe, a 16-year veteran of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO), took the call. There was no robbery, and ultimately Monroe found that three women were at the house, not two. One was the victim’s daughter, who had no knowledge of what was going on.
“I sensed that something was wrong the longer I was there. When I started asking questions I knew things were not what they seemed,” this 46-year-old deputy said. “The victim’s daughter had no idea who the third woman was.”
It was revealed that the third woman was from out of state, and her actions, body language and answers to questions made him very suspicious. The victim at first said nothing was going on. It turned out that she’d had more than $19,000 taken from her.
Monroe then got the consent to search a number of items, including a portfolio, where he found $19,100 in cash. The information Monroe initially gathered was critical in obtaining search warrants for the portfolio and the woman’s cell phone. He eventually learned that the woman was actually an alleged co-conspirator in a sweepstakes-fraud scheme being run by people out of state. She and others had convinced the victim that she had won a sweepstakes but needed to prepay certain expenses.
“Due to Officer Monroe’s diligence, the suspect was arrested, the cash was returned to the victim, and other victims were identified through the information in the suspect’s portfolio. Officer Monroe’s probationary officer also witnessed the importance of a thorough investigation,” said Kimberly Glenn, the KCSO’s communications director.
As the investigation continued, the woman was linked to the people in other states. That led to federal charges being placed against the woman. “It’s hard to catch these people. I just felt like I had to do everything I could do to see that it got prosecuted,” Monroe said.
His actions in this case were part of what led to Monroe being honored as KCSO’s 2018 Officer of the Year at a ceremony in early January. Sheriff Tom Spangler presented him with the award. He’s also been honored twice as the department’s Officer of the Month.
Spangler shared his feelings about Monroe. “He is a hard-working, dedicated veteran officer. He is a fine example of the service and dedication that we at KCSO strive to provide the citizens of Knox County. We are honored to have him as part of our family.”
Monroe is a native of Knoxville, born in Fountain City. He attended Chilhowee Elementary and graduated from Fulton High School in 1991. After trying a few jobs, he joined KCSO in July 2003. He was a corrections officer for four years and started work on patrol in 2007. These days he patrols West Knoxville and North Knoxville and is a “senior officer” who helps train the new recruits as a field training officer.
When you sit down and talk with Monroe, it’s clear he loves his work and the people he works with day to day. We were talking just prior to his shift’s 8:30 p.m. roll call. “I love the camaraderie that we all have, and I love the roll call sessions. We have some time to joke around and have fun before we head out for patrol. I’m treated well here, and I really love my job.”
He is one of those law-enforcement professionals who, like many, does not talk a lot – especially about himself.
He’s also one who has feelings and is affected by some of what he sees on the job. Two of those incidents involved suicides and young children. “The worst was a man who strangled his girlfriend and infant child to death and attempted to commit suicide,” he said. “You don’t ever forget something like that.”
The other was a husband-and-wife murder-suicide, and their young toddler children watched it all. “It was horrible,” he said.
Like many in law enforcement, he works side jobs, mostly at the University of Tennessee for sporting events, at Pellissippi State Community College’s campuses and for the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
He’s also a grandfather, and the three “grands” call him “Papaw.”
When asked what is something most people do not know about him, he said: “My relationship with God. I work most Sundays, but I go to Loveland Baptist Church when I can, and I watch and record sermons from Elevation Church off the internet. I really enjoy their series of sermons called ‘Bars & Battles.’”
His love of the job stems from being a public servant. “I get a lot of enjoyment out of helping people,” he said. “It’s as simple as that … just a lot of satisfaction in being there for people when they need us.”
(Editor’s Note: This is part of a weekly series – Our Town Heroes – highlighting Knoxville’s emergency-service professionals. Watch for this feature every Monday on KnoxTNToday.com and if you have suggestions about a first responder/emergency-services professional we should feature, email Tom King.)