First phase of new courthouse security measures installed

David Yates Oct. 8, 2008, 7:57am

A worker prepares the entrance lanes that will guide visitors through new X-ray machines at the Jefferson County Courthouse.

As soon as December rolls around, the public can expect to wait a few seconds at a security checkpoint at the Jefferson County Courthouse main entrance while officers X-ray their belongings.

"This is not something we rushed in to," said Brent Weaver, assistant to Sheriff Mitch Woods. "We've been studying (security procedures) for the last two years."

Weaver says the X-ray machines currently being installed are "some of the best on the market" and that he hopes to have them and his officers fully up and running by Dec. 3.

In August 2007, Jefferson County Commissioners approved a three-phase security courthouse plan, budgeting around $235,000 for the security-overhaul project.

The three-phase courthouse security plan came to life shortly after a federal inmate shut-down the county courthouse when he pulled a paper gun on corrections officers July 2, 2007. Commissioners had been discussing updates to the system for a few years, but it was kicked into high gear after the incident.

The first phase of the plan calls for two X-ray and walk-through metal detector scanners to be installed at the courthouse's main entrance, at a cost of $35,000. Four to five new security officers would then be hired, at cost of $200,000 a year, to operate the machines.

Although still in favor of enhancing security, some commissioners expressed concerns that the new measures would worsen courthouse congestion, especially since up to 500 citizens responding to jury summonses pass through the courthouse doors from 8 - 9 a.m. Mondays and Tuesdays.

Various other measures entailed with the first phase of the security plan include ID badges for courthouse employees, 10 new strategically-located security cameras and a bullet-proof glass entrance at the County Clerk's Office.

The phases for the proposed security plan are listed in detail below.

Phase 1 - main courthouse complex:

  • Secure entrances and exits and identify fire/emergency exits
  • Implement security camera system
  • Implement security keycard for all courthouse employees, providing different levels of access
  • Implement X-ray machines and walk-through detectors at main entrance
  • Implement private security guards to operate and maintain security device and provide extra roving security when needed

    Phase 2 - Internal modifications to courtroom security
  • Establish and implement procedure for emergency broadcast system and alert system
  • Install ballistic resistant window coverings in offices and other areas
  • Install duress button in offices and courtrooms
  • Implement security procedures for each courtroom and courthouse complex
  • Establish and implement policy and procedure regarding courthouse security

    Phase 3 - Implement security devices and procedures in Jefferson County Community and Corrections Supervision Adult Probation Building
  • Establish and implement security plan
  • Three private security guards, five days a week working 10 hour days
  • One X-ray machine with metal detector
  • Duress alarms
  • Security keycard access
  • Surveillance cameras

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