Circuit Judge R. Brent Elliott’s “From the Bench” is a series of articles designed to provide the public with a better understanding of the judicial system. Hardly a day goes by that we do not receive some notification of a shooting or similar act of violence here in the U.S. Frequently, law enforcement officials or other court-related personnel are forced to respond to these situations. Local court and county officials are quite cognizant of these incidents and are taking steps to limit our citizens’ exposure or risk.
Our 43rd Circuit (Caldwell, Clinton, Daviess, DeKalb, and Livingston counties) has some unique assistance in the area of security that provides an advantage over most other circuits. Section 476.083 of the Revised Statutes of the State of Missouri provides that circuits meeting a threshold state prison population are entitled to a “Circuit Court Marshal.” Pursuant to the statute, one of the main duties of the Marshal is oversight of the physical security of our courthouses.
Last month marked the 23rd anniversary of the appointment of our first, and only, Circuit Marshal. O. C. “Buddy” Weller was appointed in August 1996 by then Presiding Judge, Stephen K. Griffin. Marshal Weller has done a remarkable job of enhancing security for our courts, county officials, and the public in general.
Since 1982, I have tried or presided over more than 100 jury trials in our circuit. I have personally witnessed immeasurable safety improvements as a result of the security procedures implemented by Marshal Weller. Bailiffs and other law enforcement personnel undergo extensive courthouse security training.
All 43rd Circuit courthouses now operate magnetometers (commonly called metal detectors) at points of entry, and some possess live stream video cameras monitored by local law enforcement. In addition, each county official’s office is equipped with emergency alarm devices that immediately alert local law enforcement agencies in the event of a safety issue. Last, but certainly not least, Marshal Weller oversees “active shooter training” in each of our five counties. County officials and employees are instructed what to do in the event of a courthouse security incident.
Many of us in the judicial system have, on occasion, observed Marshal Weller’s ability to physically restrain an unruly individual. Perhaps an even greater testament to his professionalism is the fact he is seldom called upon to do so. He is proof “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
PERSONAL NOTE: I have had the good fortune of knowing Buddy Weller since childhood. He hailed from Bethany and I, of course, am from the great nation of Eagleville. The strength and agility gained from lifting thousands of feed sacks for his father’s feed and supply business served him well as our Circuit Marshal. However, it is his wonderful personality and ability to work with law enforcement, commissioners, and other county officials that has made our circuit one of the safest, most secure circuits in the state.
Judge R. Brent Elliott is the judge of the 43rd Circuit Court.