A deputy with the Boyle County Sheriff’s Office recently underwent training that will give him, as well as his department, a leg up on judicial protective services.
Sgt. Dustin Clem, who serves as school resource officer with Boyle County Schools, was chosen to attend training at the U.S. Marshal’s Academy at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Ga.
Out of 300 applicants, Clem and 45 other law enforcement officers from around the country were selected to attend the seven-day course last month, where they were schooled on courthouse security and judicial protection.
The sheriff’s department elected Clem as the candidate and applied for the training through the Department of Homeland Security, which looks for departments that have a need for the special training.
“We just met all the criteria,” he said.
Boyle County has both a history of courthouse threats and an older courthouse that is vulnerable to security breaches, so Clem’s training is especially appropriate, said Sheriff Marty Elliott.
“We’re doing all we can to try to protect the judicial system,” Elliott said.
In 2004, Danville businessman Ronnie Cornett was intercepted by police as he planned to carry a handgun into the courthouse to kill Family Court Judge Bruce Petrie and others involved in his bitter divorce. Earlier this year, Bobby Wilson of Boyle County was arrested for allegedly threatening to shoot Petrie and others involved in his divorce case.
Clem said his training focused on improving responses to threats made against courthouse settings, such as threats to judicial personnel, escape attempts, high-risk trails and active shooter scenarios, all taught by members of the U.S. Marshal’s Service and special agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
“This was a terrific opportunity to interact with other law enforcement officers and improve our ability to address the unique problems that come with providing adequate protection for a court facility, while maintaining open access to the judicial process,” Clem said. “We are faced with unique issues in Boyle County due to the age of our courthouse.”
Clem said Boyle County’s courthouse lacks most of the security features in place at more modern judicial centers: a single entrance with a metal detector; video surveillance; secure parking for judges; and windowless first floors. He said he learned some strategies and techniques that can help make for security shortcomings here.
“You gotta kind of adapt some of their stuff,” he said.
Clem, who works primarily out of an office at Boyle County High School, said he “floats” throughout the day. Given the minimal manpower at the sheriff’s department, he would be called on if a judge was threatened or other security concerns arose.
During his training, Clem said that sort of preparation was what he liked most.
“I enjoyed doing the high-risk trial planning,” he said. “How you’re going to move an inmate to a trial from a detention facility and do that safely. How you’re going to control the gallery area. If something does happen, how you’re going to get the judge out and who’s going to respond to what situation.”
Elliott said Clem was a smart pick to receive the training.
“It shows you the quality person Dustin is,” the sheriff said. “He has the drive and it makes sense to put someone in rank in that so he can oversee what we need to do.”
Clem said, “It’s gives me another set of ideas of how to make the courthouse safe and how to provide the appropriate protection to the judges.”