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New deputies, chaplains, COPs sworn in

John Rieping/The Madera Tribune From left, Citizen on Patrol member Jon Thompson, chaplains Sam Tallmon, Nathan Nielsen and Harold “Herk” Rolff and deputies Michael Murphy, Ryan King and Brendan Johnson swear Thursday to faithfully perform their duties.


Madera County Sheriff Jay Varney led three deputies, two chaplains and a Citizens on Patrol member in an oath of office at a simple ceremony Thursday evening in the agency’s office.

The newly sworn-in servants of the law are deputies Brendan Johnson, Ryan King and Michael Murphy, Citizen on Patrol Jon Thompson, and chaplains Harold “Herk” Rolff, Nathan Nielsen and Sam Tallmon.

Johnson and King made a “lateral” move to join the local sheriff’s office, according to the sheriff. “They have experience someplace else,” he said. “But they’ve looked at us as an agency and seen that this is a good place to work. And they’ve decided that this is where they want to cast their future. So we’re pretty excited about that.”

Johnson graduated with a bachelor of science degree in criminology from Fresno State University in 2013 and from the College of the Sequoias Police Academy in 2014. He then worked for the Sanger Police Department. He joined the local sheriff’s office in mid-July.

King graduated from Madera High School in 2003 and from College of the Sequoias Police Academy in 2008. He worked for the Madera County Department of Corrections from 2004 to 2006, and then worked for the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office from 2006 to 2016. He joined the local sheriff’s office Sept.1.

“The last person on the sworn list (Murphy) is somebody who’s literally just out of the (Fresno City College police) academy, graduated in July,” Varney said. “And it’s good to have a mix of both people who’ve never done the job and people who have done the job. ‘Cause they actually learn from each other and they keep each other motivated.”

Murphy graduated in political science from Fresno State University in 2004, interned for Congressman George Radanovich in 2005, and worked as a merchandiser for Southern Wine and Spirits of America from 2007-2015 before going to the police academy. He joined the local sheriff’s office Saturday.

“The next group are three folks who are working in the mountain with us as chaplains. Sgt. Tallmon, who works on that, kind of went around and canvassed folks,” Varney said. “And we have a good mix there in terms of we have a couple of younger men and Herk (Rolff who) is a little older. He’s older than I am I think.”

Tallmon leads Calvary Chapel of the Sierra in North Fork and has a sibling and a grandparent who work as deputies. Rolff, a former California Highway Patrol officer, leads Little Church in the Pines. Nielsen directs the Yosemite base for the international missions organization, Youth With a Mission, and is an avid outdoorsman.

The trio of new chaplains have also had “real world experience in intervening in disasters,” Varney said. “So they know. They’ve been in mass casualty situations.”

Nielsen serves regularly in Thailand and Nepal, and Tallmon does likewise in Mexico and Nepal. Nielsen and Tallmon have both separately gone to Greece to help Syrian refugees. Rolff has 15 years experience in law enforcement, 30 years in business, eight years as a pastor and 46 years of marriage to his wife, Norma.

“The last one, Mr. Thompson, was the seventh of seven new Citizens on Patrol that we just put on,” Varney said. “We swore the other six in at a different day. And we’re pretty excited about that because the volunteers give us anywhere between five and seven full-time employee equivalents worth of work hours a year. So if you took all of the Citizens on Patrol they probably give us around 14,000 hours of volunteer time a year.”

Volunteers for Citizens on Patrol undergo extensive, self-funded training and certification so they can assist deputies, business owners and residents. The work the uniformed members do is “a big deal,” Varney said. “Honestly there’s a lot of things we could not accomplish for the citizens of Madera County if we didn’t have the Citizens on Patrol.”

The latest COP member, Thompson, has previously superintended a pulp mill and served as a volunteer firefighter. He has a wife, two daughters and a son.

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For a video of the swearing in, visit


K-9 program moves on

The sheriff’s department may see two new faces on patrol by the end of January — very long and furry faces.

“The K-9 program is moving forward,” said Madera County Sheriff Jay Varney, who explained that funds have been raised to get four dogs, twice as many as originally sought.

“The first two dogs have been acquired,” he said. “The handler teams have been selected. They’ve been trained. They’ve passed the post-certification and the first two dogs and their handlers are working the road.”

In about 3-5 weeks, the third and fourth K-9 teams will be picked, dogs placed and training scheduled so it “doesn’t interfere with the holidays … So I’m thinking no later than the end of January all four teams will be out and more likely all four will be out before then. So yeah, it’s pretty exciting.”

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