CLAYTON – There are 50 employees of the Clayton Police Department and to be named Officer of the Year is quite an accomplishment.
Every year, a committee looks at the meritorious recommendations that are submitted and has the difficult decision to select just one. This year, Sgt. Joel ‘Keith’ Garner was named Clayton’s top cop.
Sgt. Garner, 48, has been a law enforcement officer for 24 years and has served on the Clayton Police Department since 2009.
“I get to work with Keith every day and his office is just a few doors down from mine, so he catches a lot of the things that come out of my office,” said Police Chief Blair Myhand. “I am able to, and in fact I did it today, walk up and said that I need something done and I can walk away knowing it will be. Keith was recognized by his peers as someone they can count and rely on to get things done. I can always trust him to complete any task on time and with distinction.”
“His effort with firearms training been remarkable. Many people ask why we spend so much time on firearms training and while it’s not our focus, when you talk to someone like Keith, he makes clear the importance: when you need to have that firearms skill, there is no prep time – it’s now. There are incidents all over the country with officers who have survived because they have relied on that training. Keith takes this very personally and takes very seriously that if that situation arises, our officers will have the best chance to be successful in those instances. Keith is a forward thinker and works very hard to stay abreast of emerging trends to improve officer safety and department operations. He sets an example that people strive to achieve,” Chief Myhand said.
Sgt. Garner is from the Corinth Holders community. He graduated from Smithfield Selma High School in 1989 and served as a military police officer in the Army for four years. Afterwards he returned to Johnston County and received a degree from Johnston Community College. Later he obtained a Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice from Western Carolina University.
In 1995, Keith went to work with the Wilson Police Department. From 2000 to 2006 he was on the Henderson Police force. From 2006 to 2009 he worked as a Johnston County sheriff’s deputy before being hired by the Clayton Police Department in 2009.
In Clayton, Keith started out as a patrol officer, and was later promoted to sergeant in charge of the traffic unit. Since Jan. 2018 he has been the department’s training coordinator. He is also one of two Clayton police motorcycle officers.
Garner received the award during a recent banquet held at the Clayton Town Center.
“Sgt. Garner is the most reliable of people. Keith is a forward thinker and works very hard to stay abreast of emerging trends to improve officer safety and department operations. He sets an example that people strive to achieve,” Chief Myhand told JoCoReport.
“I was humbled,” Sgt. Garner said afterwards. “I wasn’t expecting it at all. Honesty I truly didn’t expect it. I come to work every day and do my job and try to make everybody better.”
Keith is the son of Charles and Jean Garner of the Corinth Holders Community. He is married to Kelly Garner, a Captain at the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office. They have four children.