The term “sheriff” is derived from the middle ages “shire reeve,” a royal official who supervised lands for a lord.The shire reeves had many roles including to assist in the detection and prevention of crimes.

That history lesson was part of a presentation by Franklin County Sheriff Steve Pelton in front of the first session of the Citizens’ Law Enforcement Academy of Franklin County.

The inaugural class met Monday as the first of a 12-week session.

“The key thing, bottom line, is that we are stronger together,” Pelton said. “This is a great way for the community to partner with law enforcement and vise versa.”

Pelton, along with Maj. T.J. Wild presented a broad history of the office of sheriff, local history of the Franklin County office and information on how it operates today.

“We wanted to give the full picture of how sheriffs originated,” Pelton added, “what we have been through locally and where we are at today.”

County Events

Pelton touched on major events involving the sheriff department, including the 1969 bombing of the courthouse.

He spoke about the Pinkerton detective who was killed by the suspects of a bank robbery of 1903.

Pelton touched on the more recent cases of the “Missouri Miracle” when kidnapping victims Ben Ownby and Shawn Hornbeck were found Jan. 12, 2007. Ben had been missing for four days, but Shawn had been missing for more than four years. The boys were held captive by Michael Devlin in Kirkwood.

Wild gave the firsthand account when he was shot in New Haven on Dec. 30, 2006.

Wild was part of the response team to a domestic dispute call in New Haven, which can be some of the most dangerous calls for officers to respond to because emotions are always high.

The bullet entered at the top of his shoulder and came out at the shoulder blade, where his bulletproof vest stopped it.

After 11 days in the hospital, Wild’s recovery took several months.

The Academy

The Citizens’ Law Enforcement Academy toured the sheriff’s office Monday night and learned about each of its departments. Members will tour the jail during a future meeting, Pelton added.

The participants were invited to take part in the class, and then take what they learn to others, including neighborhood watch groups.

“We had several great compliments after the class,” Pelton said. “Everyone was engaged and interested in the presentations.”

He stated that attendees interacted with each other during breaks.

“It was a fantastic evening. There was a lot of networking,” Pelton commented. “It was exciting to see them get to know each other, and get up and shake hands.”

Future Classes

Participants must be 18 years old, and live, work or own property in Franklin County.

They cannot be a convicted felon or have a lengthy violent criminal history.

Students who come under criminal investigation should remove themselves from the program until the investigation is concluded, Pelton added.

The sheriff’s academy is not a physically demanding program. Adults of all ages are encouraged to apply. To apply people can contact the sheriff’s office at 636-582-2560.

A primary goal during Pelton’s campaign for office in 2017 was community outreach.


The academy won’t produce commissioned officers, but it will strengthen bonds between his office and participants.

By Gregg Jones | Missourian​