Courthouse to add metal detectors, security
Saturday, March 16, 2013 5:00 AM
The Jefferson County Courthouse soon will have metal detectors and security officers.
The County Council recently approved the purchase of a walk-through metal detector and two wand metal detectors for the Courthouse, as well as new positions for a full-time and part-time security officer.
The new equipment costs $4,200 and will be installed by county employees, though there is no set timeline for the setup.
Sheriff John Wallace said the safety effort has become a popular and effective option for courthouses across the state and nation looking to increase security. He said Jefferson County has seen a few close calls over the years - one of which came when an attorney was assaulted by a client.
"(At the Courthouse), people's lives can change in a matter of seconds, whether it be civilly or criminally," he said.
Before approving the expenses, a committee of county officials met to discuss appropriate safety measures for the building.
Wallace said the consensus was that metal detectors were the best way to make sure that patrons do not bring weapons or other contraband into the Courthouse. It also provides more expansive security for workers, elected officials and visitors, he added.
"This is just something that we felt is long overdue," he said. "We'd rather be proactive instead of reactive."
The walk-through unit will be installed at the west entrance - facing Jefferson Street - of the building and all other entrances will be locked, though access will be given to those who need the handicap ramp on the east end of the building.
Once in the entrance, patrons will be asked to remove any metal items and then walk through the detector. The area will include special lock boxes for items prohibited inside the Courthouse.
Both security officers who monitor the doors will be trained and considered special deputies, which means they will carry a service weapon and have arrest powers.
The full-time security officer position will pay $29,974.40 a year, while the part-time job will carry an annual salary of $13,000.
The officers will work the door during regular Courthouse hours and during County Council and Board of Commissioners meetings.
Wallace said the security is to improve safety, not to deter visitors.
"This is the people's house," he said. "And we have an obligation to the county employees, officials and especially the citizens to ensure that it's a safe place."