Sgt. Kenneth Holden might not be the most recognizable person in Richmond County Superior Court, but insiders know he's the man.
Sgt. Holden is the one in charge of making sure that the anger of divorcing spouses doesn't turn physical in court, that someone who knows he's been cheated holds his temper in civil court, and that criminal defendants don't bolt for freedom or take out their frustration on the attorneys or judges.
He's also often asked for his opinion of a witness' demeanor, verdict predictions or insight into a judge's mood or an attorney's performance. He knows all of the people working in the system.
Fourteen years ago, Sgt. Holden was building a solid background of police work and was anticipating a transfer from burglary to violent crimes at the Richmond County Sheriff's Office.
But the department needed someone to take over the top courtroom security job.
With the offer of a promotion to sergeant, most weekends off - freeing him for National Guard duty - and a chance for something different, he signed up.
"It's a good fit," Sgt. Holden said.
He said he has learned a lot through the years of watching trials, such as how he could have made stronger cases for the prosecution and how witnesses can best present themselves.
He's put that knowledge to work and teaches courtroom testimony and courtroom security at the local and state academies and for the Georgia Sheriff's Association.
Security is his priority. Sgt. Holden supervises five courtroom teams and can raise manpower when he senses a need. When three young men stood trial for murder in the drive-by shooting of an elderly woman, he called in two teams from the Crime Suppression Unit and set up a metal detector outside the courtroom door.
That was before the marshal's office took over building security and everyone coming into the building had to pass through metal detectors.
One of the hardest trials was a capital murder trial for a man accused of killing Mary Colley Stewart a decade ago. The victim impact testimony was wrenching, he said.
"Just about everyone in the courtroom was crying, even officers. It was tough," Sgt. Holden said.
Presenting a professional demeanor for the public is important. Court security officers are the only law enforcement professionals many people ever come into contact with.
"It's got its rewards," Sgt. Holden said of his job. Getting to work with the public, attorneys, judges and even the media tops his list.
Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SGT. KENNETH HOLDEN
Occupation: Chief bailiff for Richmond County Superior Court
Experience: Started with Augusta Police Department in 1971; left for Waynesboro and then Richmond County Sheriff's Office, where he worked in the DUI task force, narcotics and burglary before taking his current position