RUSSELL Retired U.S. Marshal Doug Spillman spoke to Russell Rotary on Thursday and shared some of his experiences as a Kentucky State Police Officer, Correctional Officer and U.S. Marshal.
Spillman retired from the Marshal service at the age of 54. He volunteered for the Boy Scouts of America for 24 years as a Commissioner and Master Scout, and is a member of the Oak Street Freewill Baptist Church and was a deacon for 20 years. years. Although not a minister, he has served on the Freewill Baptist State Executive Council for the past 26 years. All of these things, Spillman said, he felt honored to be able to do it.
“I grew up in Webbville, Ky., In Lawrence County,” Spillman told the group. “It was in a modest house, and my father was a freelance mechanic who couldn’t read or write. But we were brought up in a respectful home. My dad always told me that if you borrow something, you take it back in as good a condition as when you borrowed it. And you respect the property of others. And we have grown up believing in God.
Spillman told the group that he was sure everyone had met someone who had made such an impact on them that it changed the course of their lives. The first person who had such an impact on him was Jesse Fiffe, a retired police officer and preacher. Spillman said he lived about half a mile from him growing up.
“I used to go to school and see him get into his car in the morning,” Spillman said. “And I decided that was what I wanted to be.”
He graduated from high school on a Friday, Spillman said, and the following Monday he joined the U.S. military in Ashland. His plan was to become a military police officer to gain some experience in the field. Spillman succeeded in this and also obtained a top-secret security clearance. During training, half of his platoon was sent to Vietnam, with Spillman in that half. At 19, he spent a year in Saigon; and after a brief period in the United States, Spillman volunteered to return for a second tour.
After his release from the military, Spillman took a brief hiatus before joining the Kentucky State Police in 1969. After graduating from the Police Academy, he was then posted to the Morehead Post and was assigned to patrolled Lewis County for the first year, virtually on his own, he mentioned.
“I will always consider being a State Soldier to be the pinnacle of my career,” said Spillman. “As a 24-year-old state soldier, I had to use more independent judgment than I did as a US Marshal. That’s because as an American Marshall you mostly do things together, whether it’s transporting prisoners or serving a warrant.
Spillman also shared a heartbreaking experience from his time as a Kentucky State Soldier.
“In 1971, I was almost killed in Greenup County,” Spillman said. Spillman was stopping someone and they pushed him in front of a car. He would end up spending 10 days in an intensive care unit, followed by a month at King’s Daughter Medical Center. Spillman returned to work about a month after being released from the hospital in October 1971. Eventually, in 1972, Spillman made the decision to leave the State Police and spent several years in various jobs, including a year in a state prison.
Working in a prison, however, did not suit him, he told the group, and after that year he was able to be transferred to the US Marshals Office and assigned to the Louisville office. Spillman shared his experiences training in Brunswick, Georgia, and later working in Louisville. Part of his early duties was federal courtroom security, which involved searching the courtroom and under the judge’s bench before the court sat, and escorting the judge into court. . Other duties included escorting federal prisoners when they needed to be transferred.
“I had been looking for prisoners’ shoes for about 20 years,” said Spillman, telling a story that illustrated how every detail of every procedure was to be followed. The prisoner was a 42-year-old bank robber who was transferred from Ashland to Lexington and then sent to Georgia. “I was looking for this prisoner while my partner was doing some paperwork. Well, it paid off that day because under the inserts of his tennis shoes he had two metal rods the size of a # 2 pencil, pointed at both ends. Attention to the procedure, Spillman said, prevented a potential loss of life that day.
Spillman said he ended his career in the US Marshal service at Ashland. And although the responsibilities and duties of the US Marshals have evolved over the years, Spillman considers them to be what they always have been, part of the backbone of federal law enforcement. They were the first federal law enforcement agency, founded in 1789, and now include approximately 3,738 United States deputy commissioners and criminal investigators.