A new career

CATEGORY: Alcorn County


A new career

Corinth pharmacist turns in white coat for badge

After dispensing legal drugs for years, Terry Dalton finds law enforcement is in his blood.

By Jane Clark Summers

Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

CORINTH – Terry Dalton used to sell drugs. Now he arrests people for selling drugs. While it sounds odd, both professions have been totally legal.

When Dalton exchanged his white pharmacist jacket for a blue police officer’s uniform, people shook their heads and wondered about his sanity, he said. His decision to switch roles from drug salesman to an investigator of drug dealers was made because of what he saw as a pharmacist: legal drug abuse.

“I saw a massive legal drug problem, people who abuse prescription drugs and forge prescriptions,” said Dalton. “I had no idea at the time how serious the illegal drug problem was.”

That’s what piqued his interest. But another event marked his course of action.

In April 1989, Dalton’s daughter, Kristen, was born. “That was a life changing thing for me.” He wanted to be able to make a difference in the world, he said. Although the career move would have a major financial impact, Dalton’s wife, Patrice Odom Dalton, supported him in what turned out to be a five-year quest.

Curbing drug abuse

Dalton, 30, graduated magna cum laude from the University of Mississippi’s School of Pharmacy in 1988. Soon after starting work as a pharmacist, he realized what he really wanted was to be in law enforcement. Finding such a job was difficult because no one took him seriously.

As a pharmacist, he saw what federal drug agents could do about the problem so he tried to get a job with the Drug Enforcement Administration. Failing there, he tried the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics.

Early last year, Corinth Police Chief Fred Johnson gave him a break. Dalton’s experience as a reserve deputy was a big factor in making that decision, Johnson said.

In April, Dalton graduated first in his class at the training academy at Tupelo. He scored as an expert shooter with both rifle and pistol. Add the fact that he is a licensed pilot and a scuba diver and he has a very interesting rŽsumŽ.

“I really tried hard at the academy mainly to prove the naysayers wrong,” Dalton said.

Dalton’s enthusiasm for law enforcement is evident in the professional way he has tackled his new job.

“He has done a good job and proved to be highly professional,” Johnson said. “I did have to wonder, though, about a person who was in a career making probably three to four times as much money as he could by being a police officer.”

Dalton’s work schedule of 12-hour shifts with several days off in between sometimes enables him to continue working part time as a pharmacist. He works as a relief pharmacist at the local hospital and at retail stores, keeping his license current.

His job as a pharmacist helps support his family. His job as a police officer is not a job, it’s a lifestyle, he said. “After you get into it, it gets in your blood,” he said.

Rewarding work

Making a felony drug arrest and getting a drug dealer off the streets makes you feel great, Dalton said. His goal still is to work full time in narcotics some day.

He has yet to be afraid while on duty. “To stay alive, you can’t be afraid,” he said. “I trust my training and my partners. It’s teamwork.”

While the Corinth officers ride one to a patrol car, Dalton’s assigned partner is Ned Cregeen. “We’re tight. We can count on each other. I’d lay down my life for anyone here,” Dalton said. “That is the only problem my wife has with it.

“I won’t be a uniform cop forever,” he said. “But I’ve got to learn the system, learn the streets. I know my education, background experience and training. I can make a difference in narcotics”

Although many people tell him he is insane for taking the drastic pay cut, Dalton has no regrets.

“I have changed a lot,” he admits. “(But) there is a whole lot more than the pay.” Still, he’s trying to convince his mother that he did the right thing.

His daughter probably encouraged him the most, he said. “When I got back from the academy, my daughter said, ‘Daddy, I like you being a policeman because you are happier.'”

Click video to hear audio