Editor’s Note: GantDaily.com invited both candidates for Clearfield County Sheriff to participate in a questionnaire. Wesley B. Thurston, the Republican candidate, returned a completed questionnaire, which appears below. GantDaily.com did not receive a response from Jeffrey L. Rhone, the Democratic candidate.
CLEARFIELD – Candidate for Clearfield County Sheriff, Wesley B. Thurston, R, has submitted the following responses to the GantDaily.com candidate questionnaire.
1. Please provide a brief personal biography.
My name is Wes Thurston. I am the Republican candidate for the position of Sheriff of Clearfield County in 2013. I live in Frenchville, Covington Township, Clearfield County, with my wife of 26 years, Sandi (who is from the Pottersdale area).
I was born in Allentown, the son of the late William Earl Thurston, a minister (from Clearfield County), and Emma May Thurston, a school teacher (from Lehigh County). I graduated from high school in 1973 and attended several semesters of a pre-med program at Marion College, Marion, Indiana, and the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford.
My law enforcement career began in 1977 with the Bradford City Police Department, McKean County, where I served as a patrolman for seven years. I received municipal police training at the Pennsylvania State Police Northwest Training Center in Meadville. During my tenure with the Bradford City Police Department, I worked part-time as a police officer with campus security for the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford and served as special deputy to the McKean County Sheriff.
I joined the Pennsylvania State Police in February of 1984, graduating in June of 1984 with high scholastic honors from the Pennsylvania State Police Academy in Hershey, where I received the American Legion Award for the Outstanding Cadet. I was promoted to the rank of corporal in 1993, sergeant in 1994 and lieutenant in 1999. I served at many state police installations throughout Pennsylvania, including Clearfield.
After retiring from the Pennsylvania State Police in 2009, I completed training from H&R Block, where I worked as a tax associate at Curwensville office.
My wife and I are Christians and long-time members of the Hyde Wesleyan Church. As our children are grown, we are periodically able to assist with local ministry efforts.
My hobbies include music, golfing, light carpentry and watching wildlife, which regularly visits my yard and property.
2. What qualifies you for the position of Clearfield County Sheriff?
I believe my experience and training in all phases of law enforcement qualify me for the position of Clearfield County Sheriff. I have worked with the citizens of Clearfield County as a patrol trooper and criminal investigator with the state police. I investigated many serious felony-grade crimes where the victims were from Clearfield County. I have worked closely with county offices and the court system. I understand the needs of Clearfield County as they relate to law enforcement, court service and protection of personal rights and freedoms. I believe in the equal treatment of all citizens under the law.
My extensive experience in administration, management and supervision will be invaluable to the position of Sheriff of Clearfield County. For example, my assignments were in various patrol, criminal investigation and undercover functions. Administrative and management duties included serving as station commander, section commander and division director. I participated in undercover drug investigation, project management and administration in the course of my career.
While responsible for the operation of the programming division in the Bureau of Research and Development at Department Headquarters from 1999 to 2004, I was assigned as project manager for the web-based Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Reporting System, which provides information to the FBI and is accessible to the general public here. This multi-million dollar project was completed on-time and on-budget. It was declared a “best practice” by the FBI and generated much interest nationwide, as well as from the Territory of Guam and the country of Great Britain. I organized a Uniform Crime Reporting training program for municipal and state police at five centralized locations throughout Pennsylvania in cooperation with the FBI.
Other initiatives I was responsible for included converting the state police library of manuals and regulations to an online application, development of the first automated criminal complaint form accepted by the Pennsylvania Administrative Clerk of Courts, development of a correspondence tracking system and creation of a technology plan for the Pennsylvania State Police. As project manager for these initiatives, my responsibilities included identifying program requirements, evaluating risk, developing requests for quotes, selecting and monitoring vendors, monitoring project progress, testing delivered products and recommending payment for products delivered. I worked with the Governor’s Office, Budget Office, Controller’s Office, Office of General Counsel and multiple state and municipal agencies. I made presentations to the National UCR Convention in Vail, CO and to the Bureau of Criminal Justice Statistics convention at New Orleans.
In the course of my career, I received training in rape crisis, drug identification, drug interdiction, homicide investigation, child abuse investigation, firearms and automatic weapons, interview and interrogation techniques, first-line supervision, ethics, leadership, computer operation and applications, stress management, CPR and first aid. I graduated from the Northwestern University of Police and Staff Command (Illinois), as well as completing Pennsylvania State University Police Executive Training. I completed the Project Management Certificate Program from the International Institute of Learning Inc.
This experience and training will enable me to review and identify any necessary business process changes, budget concerns and personnel issues. I have the ability to identify and evaluate appropriate courses of action for these areas of concern. As sheriff, I will endeavor to provide the most professional and comprehensive service possible with the resources at my disposal while striving to keep costs at a minimum.
3. What major investigations have you been a part of?
I investigated major crimes throughout my career, including those of criminal homicide, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, forgery, and drug violations. Agencies with which I worked include the FBI, Secret Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Pennsylvania State Bureau of Narcotics, New Jersey State Police, Michigan State Police and a multitude of municipal police departments.
Below are just some of the many investigations I completed during my law enforcement career. There are others listed where I provided assistance and recommendations to the investigations.
I investigated the murder of an elderly attorney, where the victim was enticed into allowing a young woman entrance to his residence, after which the woman’s boyfriend barged through the door and assaulted the victim, robbing him at knifepoint. The victim attempted to protect himself with a revolver but was overcome by his male assailant, who shot the victim twice in the head. The investigation culminated in the arrest of the male and female assailants who were convicted of murder after a two-week jury trial.
I investigated the murder of a child by a man who crushed the child’s scull by throwing the child against the headboard of a bed. The autopsy revealed the child had also suffered previous abuse. The man was prosecuted for murder and sentenced to a term of imprisonment.
I investigated the robbery of an elderly gentleman by a young man who cut the victim with a knife in the course of the crime. I was able to identify the perpetrator and arrested him on foot in a nearby alley. The perpetrator was prosecuted and sentenced to a term of imprisonment.
I investigated the break-in of a Magisterial District Justice Office, where the burglar broke out a window of an attached business, then proceeded to crawl over a suspended ceiling into the court offices. While on patrol, I noticed the broken window and crawled through, taking the same route as the burglar. I was able to locate the burglar hiding under the desk of the District Justice, where I took him into custody at gunpoint. The burglar was found to be armed with an ice pick. He was prosecuted and sentenced to a term of imprisonment.
While assisting the Bureau of Narcotics with the service of a warrant for a drug violation, I received consent to search a residence where I located a briefcase full of narcotics. The male resident, a felon, was illegally in possession of numerous firearms. His live-in girlfriend made an unsolicited statement that the drugs belonged to them. The man and his girlfriend were prosecuted and sentenced to a term of imprisonment and probation, respectively.
I was the on-scene supervisor of the investigation of a multiple homicide, where a teenager ambushed and murdered both his mother and his father with a rifle as they came home from work. The teenager then took the family car and fled. He was located in the Midwest and returned for prosecution. He was determined to be mentally disturbed and was sentenced accordingly.
I was assigned to duty at the Camp Hill prison riot where the inmates had taken control of the facility, torturing and seriously wounding Corrections Officers and injuring other inmates. The rioters had set fire to portions of the prison complex and had damaged all of the housing blocks. I was assigned to guard a group of inmates believed to be the instigators of the riot. I was later assigned to search parts of the prison for suspected rioters believed to be at large. The prison was eventually secured, and the rioters prosecuted.
My partner and I responded to the report of a hostage situation, where two escaped prisoners had broken into a home and threatened the family at gunpoint, holding them hostage. The escapees eventually stole firearms and the family pick-up truck, releasing the hostages unharmed. The stolen truck was observed by a citizen on a state highway. The citizen followed the pick-up truck and called the police with information as to its whereabouts. One of the escapees, hiding in the bed of the truck with firearms stolen from the home of the victims, shot the citizen from the back of the truck several times with a rifle. The citizen was able to travel to a hospital where he was admitted. The truck was located and I assisted in a search of the woods and surrounding community throughout the night. Early in the morning, the escapees broke into another residence taking the residents at gunpoint and stealing their vehicle, forcing the man and wife to accompany them. The car was soon identified and a pursuit ensued, with the escapees firing at the police. The vehicle ran out of gas and the escapees stole yet another vehicle from the driveway of a residence, which also soon ran out of gas. The escapees continued on foot and fired a rifle several times at a passing car, striking the driver in the left upper chest. Upon arrival at the scene, I assisted with bandaging the injured driver in an attempt to prevent blood loss until medics arrived. The escapees then entered another private residence, taking a mother and small girl hostage. They eventually stole an all-terrain vehicle and made their escape through the woods. One of the escapees was captured by a private citizen. I was part of a search party for the second escapee when he was found in a nearby wooded area. The men were both prosecuted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.
In Clearfield County, I investigated the murder of two children by their mother. The mother had traveled to Michigan, where she was arrested for the murder of a third child. The woman admitted to the Michigan State Police to killing both children in Pennsylvania. She was brought back to Clearfield County to face charges on the Pennsylvania murders. Because of limitations on self-incrimination, the case in Pennsylvania was not prosecuted. The woman was returned to Michigan to serve a life sentence.
I was the officer-in-charge at an incident in Clarion County, where an armed perpetrator barricaded himself in a private residence after fleeing Maryland, where he had murdered a young girl. The suspect was observed by a Wildlife Conservation Officer who followed him to the residence. The occupant of the residence fled to a neighbor’s house. I was responsible to make the decision regarding the use of deadly force, should other less-than-lethal means fail to contain the suspect. The perpetrator committed suicide before any use of deadly force by the police was necessary. No Pennsylvania citizens were injured in the incident.
I have investigated many serious cases of rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, and indecent assault against children in Clearfield County. Many of these cases were successfully prosecuted. In all cases, the children were able to receive the assistance necessary to prevent further abuse.
I have conducted many death investigations eventually determined to be homicide, accidental, or suicide, many of which occurred in Clearfield County. I have assisted municipal police with other death investigations. I have participated in several televised news conferences regarding major crimes and events.
I have investigated or assisted in investigations of other cases of homicide, rape, burglary, prohibited offensive weapons (possession of explosive devices), theft, aggravated assault and drug violations too numerous to list. Most of these cases resulted in the perpetrator being sentenced to terms of imprisonment.
4. What is your law enforcement experience in Clearfield County?
In the summer of 1986, my third assignment with the Pennsylvania State Police was as a trooper to the Clearfield Barracks, which serves most of Clearfield County. I patrolled the Clearfield County roadways and answered complaints and requests for service from the citizens of Clearfield County. I made arrests for traffic violations and for crimes assigned to me for investigation. I assisted municipal police in Clearfield County as requested. In 1989, I was assigned as criminal investigator at the Clearfield Barracks. For three years, I investigated all criminal cases assigned to me. These included many death investigations, child sexual abuse cases, rapes and other serious cases. In 1993, I was assigned to the Region IV Strike Force as an undercover drug officer. I worked investigations in Clearfield County and the surrounding region. Further promotions moved me to other locations in Pennsylvania until 2004 when I was assigned as Staff Services Commander of Troop C, which includes Clearfield County. I was responsible for the integrity of the evidence room at Clearfield, Dubois and other stations, as well as for training, internal investigations, contracts, vehicles, budgeting and most other logistical activities. I was regularly assigned as Officer of the Day in Troop C, which included overall supervision and major decision-making responsibilities. I retired from the state police in 2009 with 25 years of service.
5. What will you do to reduce crime in Clearfield County?
As Clearfield County Sheriff, I will work with the municipal police departments and the Pennsylvania State Police to educate citizens about how to protect themselves from being victims of personal crimes and property crimes. I will assist police agencies as opportunity arises in investigations, fugitive apprehensions and service of warrants, when possible. Because the sheriff and his deputies are authorized to make on-view arrests, I will instruct my deputies to be alert and vigilant for criminal or suspicious activity as they perform their duties, and to protect life and property, making on-view arrests as appropriate. I will provide sheriff’s patrols in the county as resources permit and, when possible, will personally participate in patrol activities. I will provide presentations to community organizations and groups when requested and possible, advising them of their rights and available protection under the law. I will provide opportunities for tours of the Sheriff’s Office to children from local schools, community organizations and churches. I will provide crime prevention information upon request, as it becomes available. I will ensure the sheriff’s office is supportive of community efforts to reduce crime, enhance neighborhood security and protect school zones from criminal activity.
6. If elected, please explain how your department will efficiently work with local police. How important is it to have effective relations with police departments?
If I am elected as Clearfield County Sheriff, my office will work with local and state police to provide assistance at incident scenes, when requested. My officers will provide intelligence information to local police regarding criminal activity, location of suspects, tips received from citizens and personal observation. My department will strive to maintain professional communications with all police departments. It is extremely important and a personal goal to have effective relationships with police agencies. I consider the necessary skills of communication and relationship-building to be one of my fortes. The seamless, efficient transfer of information depends upon cordial and open relationships between departments. As sheriff, I will endeavor to participate in activities, when invited, at other police agencies. In turn, I will encourage other agencies to participate with the sheriff’s office in activities and training, when possible. I will personally visit heads of other police agencies on a regular basis to ensure good inter-departmental relations.
7. What will be the most important duty for you as the Clearfield County Sheriff?
The most important duty for me as Clearfield County Sheriff will be to provide to the citizens of Clearfield County and to other county and municipal agencies a professional, efficient and accessible sheriff’s office. As the sheriff is the only elected law enforcement officer in the county, his responsibility is to the people who elected him, regardless of their political affiliations, backgrounds and beliefs. I will serve with integrity and be respectful to others.
8. What are the biggest challenges facing the Clearfield County Sheriff’s Office?
The biggest challenges facing the Clearfield County Sheriff’s Office begin with providing the level of service the citizens of Clearfield County deserve and are accustomed to with limited resources available in today’s economy. The uniforms, equipment, vehicles, training and office requirements become more expensive while the county endeavors to provide a fair and livable salary and benefits to personnel without raising taxes on an already economically burdened population. Other challenges include providing courthouse and courtroom security in a society where violence and disrespect for authority has escalated, keeping up with technological advancements, and providing efficient services to the many other county offices and the general public, again with limited resources. I believe these challenges can be met by streamlining processes and researching and enacting best practices proven effective by other law enforcement agencies.
9. What is your position on the Second Amendment?
The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America is essential to maintaining a free state. The wording of the Second Amendment is clear when it states, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania goes a step further by stating, “The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned.” A country cannot remain free from tyranny, inflicted by either foreign or domestic influence, without the people having the right to “keep and bear arms” necessary to overcome that tyranny. I believe that the citizens of Clearfield County deserve to have a sheriff that will oppose any attempt by federal government or anyone else to infringe upon their right to keep and bear arms. As human beings, we are born with the right of self defense and we should allow no one - no man, no government, no entity – to take away this God-given right. As Clearfield County Sheriff, I will defend the rights of the people as defined by the Constitution of the United States of America and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
10. What would it mean for you to serve as the Clearfield County Sheriff?
It would be a distinct honor to be elected by the citizens of Clearfield County to represent them as their sheriff. To serve as Clearfield County Sheriff would give me the opportunity to empower citizens by helping them to recognize their importance in maintaining a free society with opportunity and protection for everyone. I will treat all citizens equally, with dignity and respect. I will be honest and compassionate in all dealings. In furtherance of these ideals, I value and cultivate friendship with people from all walks of life. I humbly request your support in my bid for the position of Sheriff of Clearfield County. For more information you may contact me by email at email@example.com or on Facebook.