Court personnel relieved after guards’ arrival
Until recently, Moffat County Court judge Sandra Gardner knew people brought weapons into her courtroom.
Moffat County Sheriff’s Office deputies Lynn Schonert and Jarrod Poley are trying to change that.
The deputies’ arrival is not a sign of paranoia, the judge said. It’s a way for officials to address the real possibility of disaster.
“I have seen the knives, I have seen the X-actos and I’ve assumed there were guns based on how people were clothed, and how they carried themselves, trying to conceal it,” Gardner said.
She understands why people might want to bring their blades and other instruments of harm to her place of business, but that knowledge doesn’t make it easier to push the dread out of her mind.
“We deal with very, very delicate issues up here on the third floor,” Gardner said. “People’s liberty issues are at stake, their financial interests, their family. Candidly, we do not see people at their best.”
That’s where Schonert, a 53-year-old veteran of private and courthouse security duty, and Poley, who, at 26, has worked in Moffat and Rio Blanco county jails, come in.
Since the beginning of April, it has been their task to keep weapons out of Gardner’s courtroom and the entire third floor of Moffat County Courthouse as safe as possible with a standing metal detector, a roped-off elevator and their own sensibilities.
The security measures aren’t everything Gardner hoped for when she pressed the Moffat County Commission to do something, but she said Schonert’s and Poley’s commitment to their duty is above reproach.
Gardner said she is at ease entrusting her well-being to them.
She has not always had the same comfort at work.
Gardner remembered being an attorney in a divorce case some years back in the same room she now wears her black judge’s robe. Her client’s wife, who represented herself, approached the judge one day and pulled a knife to demonstrate what she alleged her husband had done to her.
“I can remember the judge in the case recoil, because he knew this woman could hurt someone if she decided to,” Gardner said.
The memory is not lost on her when she takes her own seat on the bench, but it doesn’t seem to be the same menacing omen it once was.
“When I take the bench, I can look out at the people, and I am much more confident there are not pocket knives, guns, X-actos,” Gardner said.
Clerk of the Court Diana Meyer didn’t think much about court safety when she first starting working.
“But that was 20 years ago,” she said. “Especially in the last 10 years, things are trending toward violence. You see it everywhere, in the schools, in the colleges and in the courts. When that’s your everyday place of employment, it’s kind of unnerving.”
Meyer doesn’t find herself considering when somebody will try to hurt another person, or many people, now, for one reason.
“There’s only one entrance to the courtroom floor, and they have to go past them,” she said.
In her mind, Schonert and Poley are the perfect men for their position. Meyer was on the hiring board that brought them on staff.
What makes them perfect, as opposed to simply doing their job well, is they seem to understand exactly what the job requires, Meyer said.
There’s Schonert, who took charge and created a system that keeps people safe but doesn’t needlessly burden or harass the public.
“He’s calm, he’s professional and he’s respectful of the people who come here,” Meyer said. “Yet, he’s very careful, incredibly attentive and focused on what he’s doing, and he knows what he needs to do.”
Next to Schonert is Poley, who Meyer said seems to match his colleague’s easy personality and vigilance, despite his young age.
“He’s a likeable person, yet he’s firm about what needs to happen,” Meyer said.
The guards themselves said they are only doing what they’re assigned to do.
The job has become a lifestyle for both.
Each man’s family has a history in law enforcement, and neither was sure what he would do if not serving and protecting.
It makes their instincts come out everywhere, whether they’re at work or grabbing dinner.
“This work becomes so ingrained in you that after a while you find yourself walking into a restaurant and sitting in the corner so you can watch the door,” Schonert said. “Or, walking down a street and looking in the store windows, half to see what’s inside and half to see what’s going on around you.”
In that way, Schonert and Gardner share the same philosophy.
“It’s not paranoia, it’s being prepared,” the guard said.
Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Craig and Moffat County make the Craig Press’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User