Our view: Courts still need security
June 23, 2006
About a year ago, 14th Judicial District Chief Judge Michael O’Hara requested more security for the Moffat County Courthouse.
Entry-level screening would have included a metal detector and an armed sheriff’s deputy to monitor it.
Moffat County commissioners denied O’Hara’s request in June 2005, citing financial issues.
So, one year later, courtrooms at the Moffat County Courthouse still are unprotected, unless there’s a case that law enforcement thinks it necessary to secure.
Luckily, no one’s been injured in a dispute inside or outside of a local courtroom. But that’s not to say it couldn’t happen sometime soon.
Deputies now screen those entering the courtroom when there are cases they deem high-profile. But many other cases — namely divorce and custody hearings — are often more heated and likely to erupt into violence.
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Places such as courthouses and the Department of Social Services can become the battleground for feuding families. Those places should be secured to protect everyone.
We understand financial strains prevent government agencies from granting all the requests that come across their desks — many they probably would like to grant, but can’t. Safety should be our No. 1 concern.
The Moffat County Sheriff’s Office recently made cuts in services because of budget constraints. The Sheriff’s Office already owns a metal detector, so there’s no extra cost there. Another officer to guard courtrooms would cost the sheriff’s budget another salary for a new officer or increased wage for the existing officers to spend extra time there.
It’s true. Budget cuts hit us hard.
But maybe there are alternatives. If the county can’t afford to fund a guard, at least officials should consider closing off some entrances to the courthouse.
People planning attackssomeone there would be less likely to try anything if there were limited access points to the offices and courtrooms.
It’s nice to think that we live in a small town where everyone can be trusted.
But we need to be realistic. We have a wide-open courthouse that allows anyone to enter with anything they’d like to carry. Victims, defendants, judges, lawyers, witnesses, children and reporters are subject to outbursts from people upset by the outcome of a case.
We understand that installing a metal detector or closing off entrances wouldn’t protect everyone who goes in and out of the courthouse. If someone really wants to attack a lawyer, judge or witness, a metal detector wouldn’t stop them from doing so outside of the courthouse.
But, because of the volatile nature of court proceedings, courtrooms are at risk and should be protected more than other places.
We hope county officials will reconsider their decision and protect the courthouse before something tragic happens to initiate tighter security.