William H. Miller, Jr.
Major, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office
William Harold Miller, Jr, born in Phoenix, AZ on August 11, 1942, and passed away September 1, 2014, in Phoenix, AZ after a long illness. Bill graduated from Glendale High School in 1969, and received a scholarship to Grand Canyon College. He entered the U.S. Army and served our Country from 1961-1963, attaining the rank of Sergeant. During his law enforcement career, he also attended Glendale Community College, accruing 76 hours of credit from 1971-1975. He was on the Dean’s List for 1977, by GCC’s Honor Board. He also completed over 1600 hours of local and National service schools. He completed 14 hours of credit from the University of Virginia while at the FBI National Academy.
All he ever wanted to do was to follow in his father’s footsteps and be a law enforcement officer with the Glendale Police Department working along side his father. That was not to be because blood relatives could not work together at that Department.
In February 1968, he was hired by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and began his remarkable career. His first assignment was in the Jail Division. His first serious call came in March 1968. While making a routine walk of the cells on the third floor, he heard a soft voice say “deputy.” As he neared the cell, the other inmate sharing the cell was pointing to the shower, at which time he observed the other inmate hanging by his neck in the shower. Bill ran out and got the keys, ran back, telephoned the lower level of the situation. Another deputy ran to assist. The prisoner was transported to the hospital and he was later advised his neck was broken in two places. The prisoner lived for approximately two weeks and then died of his injuries. This was Bill’s first serious call and writing if a report as a Deputy Sheriff. It temporarily shook him up, but he was able to shake it off and complete his duties.
He knew then that he was destined to be a law enforcement officer. During his time in the Jail, which was about one year, he worked numerous suicide attempts, fights and illnesses, plus other duties. Some of the inmates he used as informants later on in his career.
His next assignment was on to Uniform Patrol. There was virtually no training. He was thrown the keys to a patrol car and told his beat would be the whole West side of Maricopa County. This lasted a short time. An officer was needed for the Accident Investigation Unit, so he volunteered. It wasn’t long before his first fatality would come in April 1969. A father was on his way home from a Boy Scout campfire when a man ran a stop sign hitting his vehicle, which had his son and three other boys. It was terrible having to inform his wife of the sad news at the hospital that night.
On the night of December 25, 1969, a small plane crashed near the summit of the Estrella Mountains injuring the pilot. During the subsequent search and evacuation, the crew of the Dept. of Public Safety AMES helicopters requested help. Bill was filling up his patrol car about 11:30 pm getting ready for shift change when he heard the call. There were no units working in the area so he responded. He got there about 11:35 pm and was briefed by several deputies who could not find any footpaths to the site of the crash. Then Bill volunteered to fly to the top to try to assist. When the helicopter got to the top, it could not land because of the rugged terrain and got as close to the ground as it could, and Bill opened the door, stepped on the skid, reached down and grabbed the skid, slid his feet off, hung and dropped to the ground, not knowing what was below him, or how far he was dropping. Once hitting the ground, he checked the aircraft and found no one in it. He was carrying a very heavy old model radio and advised the people on the ground that there was no one in the aircraft. At that time, he was advised to standby, that the helicopter was coming back to the ground to pick up the Sergeant to help me search for the pilot. As soon as he got there they began working their way down from the peak of the mountain to try and locate the pilot. The rugged terrain was very difficult and there were a lot of large rocks. Bill said he would get on top of rocks and slide down not knowing whether he was sliding five feet or five hundred feet due to the darkness. It took a long time because of the rattlesnake-infested, rugged terrain. We had to be very careful. After many many hours, we had to take a break. It had gotten very cold, very fast. At that time, the helicopter flew up to our location and dropped us water and blankets so we could rest. We began searching again at daybreak. We brought the injured out at daybreak. This was a very dangerous task, but would do it again.
Things do come full circle sometimes. July 2, 1969, Bill was providing security at an off-duty job for the Sun City Saints Softball Game. A gal he went to school with received a double fracture of her ankle plus a fractured tibia. He helped get her to safety. What a small world we live in.
While working the accident investigation unit, Bill always hated going to the scene where small children were involved. Such the case when a teenage girl and 8-month-old boy were killed when a man ran the stop sign and broadsided their vehicle killing the two.
And, the horrific case that happened in August of 1869, in which an 18-year-old Phoenix girl was killed when the car in which she was a passenger crashed into a Southern Pacific freight train west of Phoenix. She was thrown through the windshield and was killed instantly. The Airman who was driving, and on a three-day pass, was seriously injured.
February 1970, a Snackmobile driver passed in a No-Passing Zone hitting a station wagon head-on killing a mother and injuring her 22-month-old son.
I could go on and on about the many atrocities Bill witnessed while working this unit, but he always did his best for the victims.
From 1972-79 he served as Corporal in the Juvenile Section, Uniform Patrol, senior training officer, served as squad corporal in an elite area called Squad Five, and Detective Division in the Major Crimes Section, solving many high profile cases.
Bill was promoted to Sergeant in 1979, with his first assignment to the Narcotics Unit. He received a very special assignment, the sixth person in the history of MCSO to be nominated to attend the FBINA, 124th Session, Jan 4, 1981-March 20, 1981. Not only did he earn 14 hours of credit from the University of VA, he completed schools on crime scene search, interpersonal violence, management planning and budgets, EFF communications, and constitution criminal procedure.
In 1985, Bill was assigned Captain over the Detective Division investigating homicides, warrants, computer crimes, and arson investigations. The same year he was transferred as Captain over Internal Affairs. People knew that Bill would fight for them if they were right. Bill was promoted to Major in 1987, and still served as commander of the Internal Affairs Division. During this time, he received a temporary duty assignment from September 1991-December 1991, and took over as commander of the Multi-Agency Homicide Task Force, which included 40 officers investigating the Buddhist Temple murders in Tucson, AZ.
In 1993, Bill received another special duty assignment, that of deputy chief over the Criminal Investigations Bureau and Custody Bureau. This included all facets of narcotics, intelligence, warrants, civil and general investigations, auto accident investigations, auto theft, arson, West Valley Agencies Task Force, Federal FBI Fugitive Task Force, and West and East Side Police Chief Assocs., and Homicide Unit, all facets of custody and transportation of prisoners.
Before Bill retired in December 1994, as Major, he was assigned as the Watch Commander responsible for the operational control of the MCSO after normal duty working hours; taking actions and issuing such orders as necessary for the proper operation of the office, ensuring that all necessary personnel were notified of major incidents or matters requiring immediate attention. He was also able to help resolve many personnel problems by helping to work things out and was also able to debunk rumors and getting to the bottom of issues. Maricopa County covers 9,200 square miles and in 1994, two million people.
Major Miller has been the recipient of many, many awards such as: Plaque from the Reserve Officer’s Class, Deputy of the Year Award for 1977, FOP Lodge Five appreciation awards/plaques, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Officer of the Year Award in 1979, many certificates from the Police Olympics, outstanding achievement awards for personal contributions to the MCSO Criminal Investigations Bureau, MCSO Meritorious Unit for capturing 13 escapees, drug seizures, wiretap, kidnap/murder plot, formation of Western Maricopa County Agency Narcotics/Gang Task Force, and Highway Interdiction Program. Bill received a very special award in 1880, from the Featherman Family, for the investigation and arrest of the person responsible for the murder of one of their family members. In addition, Bill received an award and certificate from the FBINA Sharpshooter Awards as well as over 100 letters of commendation from his peers and the public.
Major Miller’s motto during his entire life has been “Be true to yourself, your family is always first, and be good to your people.” Bill has volunteered hundreds of hours to youth program.
Bill had been a member of the First Southern Baptist Church of Glendale since he was a small boy. He and his wife Sandra have two children, Cindy and Michael, four grandchildren – Angela, William, Zachary and Paige, and three great-grandchildren – Dax, Kasidee and Dakota. His wife, Sandra collected enough evidence of his career to fill 22 scrapbooks. Bill was in the middle of writing his memoirs when he passed away. We all love and miss him dearly.