Courthouse security debate surfaces again
A renewed debate about security issues at the new courthouse erupted when Sheriff Vince Shambaugh and Chief Deputy Tony Link appeared before the Morgan County Commissioners on Thursday afternoon, July 8.
Link said there would be a minimum of three bailiffs on
duty and five when court is in session.
“I would like to see another full time security person hired somewhere down the road,” he said.
Link said cell phones and laptop computers will not be allowed on the second and third floors of the courthouse.
Those items could be left at the Security Control Center and retrieved on the way out, Shambaugh said.
Citizen Jerry Berman questioned the effectiveness of the security system if employees and county officials have security proximity cards to enter the building while citizens have to go through a magnetometer at a security station.
“If we are talking about the creation of a dual access where some people are going through a security system and some people have keys and bypass the system, that system is severely compromised,” Berman said.
He said security swipe cards could be lost or stolen.
“The biggest threat to a public building is not Al Qaeda, which is a possibility, but from disgruntled employees. Unless all of the people are going through the detectors all of the time, your system is broken,” Berman said.
Cindy Largent-Hill asked who gets a security card.
Link said all county employees, law enforcement officers, judges, magistrates and some state employees will have security cards.
Probation Officer Danielle Hofe said the cards allowed access to the building, but once inside, employees can only access their own area or office.
“The question is, are you really having security or are you having partial security?” asked Largent-Hill. “The first floor is technically the county offices and is a public building. The second and third floors are the judicial center.”
Sammy Swaim asked his brother, Commissioner Tommy Swaim: “Tommy what are you afraid of? Has anyone ever pulled a gun on you in a public courthouse?”
Then he asked the sheriff if there has ever been any trouble.
“We stopped a guy on the terrorist watch list Friday night,” Shambaugh replied.
Steve Hutchinson asked if the sheriff had done a background check on all the people getting security cards.
“I think if you are giving people free run of the courthouse, you should do a background check on them,” Hutchinson said.
“What we have lost sight of is the good people that come into the courthouse. It takes thirty seconds, and they can go do their business,” Shambaugh said.
The meeting degenerated into many people talking at once about their view of what first-floor courthouse security should be.
Commission President Brenda Hutchinson ended the discussion by asking Shambaugh and Link to provide a written security plan for the courthouse.