WELCH — Long hours and risks that go with the law enforcement profession are not always recognized, but McDowell County’s veterans recently recognized one of the state troopers working to keep people safe.
Senior Trooper R.W. Justus of the West Virginia State Police Welch Detachment was recently named the American Legion Post 8 Policeman of the Year. A native of McDowell County, Justus grew up in the Pea Patch area.
Justus took time at the Welch detachment to talk about his law enforcement career. He worked as a correctional officer in Virginia for several years before joining the West Virginia State Police in 2013.
“I’ve been employed since Sept.16, 2013. I graduated from the academy in the 63rd Cadet Class and subsequently was assigned to the Welch detachment of the West Virginia State Police,” Justus recalled. “Prior to enlisting in the state police, I served approximately five years with Virginia Department of Corrections. I worked for them for five years in a maximum security prison, so I had some prior knowledge and experience before becoming a trooper on the other side of the gate. The facility I worked at was Keen Mountain Correctional Center in Buchanan County, Va. The ranks I held was correctional officer, and I held the rank of K-9 officer while I was there as well.”
During the calendar year 2016, Justus made 76 felony arrests, answered 768 calls for service, made 209 misdemeanor arrests, issued 248 citations and was involved in cases that seized $2,916,000 worth of illegal drugs. Notable cases Justus investigated and solved include a case of embezzlement by the former SAFE home director in McDowell County, a November 2016 murder in the Coon Branch/Iaeger area, and a December 2016 drug arrest in Thorpe which yielded large amounts of narcotics, cash, and weapons.
The drug bust in Thorpe alone led to the capture of $30,000 in drugs, $20,000 in cash and approximately $5,000 in stolen weapons, Justus said. When the Welch detachment investigates a drug case, it’s not uncommon to find thousands of dollars worth of illegal narcotics and prescription medications.
“We always seize a large amount of marijuana during eradication, and I’ve been involved in several drug busts involving large amounts of cocaine and crack cocaine as well,” Justus said.
Justus thinks of serving McDowell County’s residents as a privilege.
“Since I’ve been here it’s been a great honor to serve the community and to serve southwestern West Virginia. Also, it’s been a goal of mine to not only enforce the law in southern West Virginia, but to play that friendship role and to gain friendship and trust with the community as well,” he said. “We play a lot of roles in law enforcement. We can be your friend, like a big brother figure, I guess, and influence people to do better in their lives and get on a better track.”
Childhood experiences helped lead Justus to a career in law enforcement.
“I guess when I was growing up, I was always fascinated with law enforcement and I was fascinated with troopers in general, just how they carried themselves, just how professional and traditional the state police agency has always been. I just wanted to give back to my community. Growing up, I’ve been around a lot of different people, and I’ve seen a lot of people go down the wrong road as far as illegal activity or drug habits. I’ve always wanted to give back to the community, and try to influence and encourage people to do better in their lives.”
— Contact Greg Jordan at email@example.com