Our view: What price security?
It’s hard to imagine a courthouse shooting such as the one in Atlanta taking place in Craig.
On March 11, a man being escorted into court for his rape trial stole a deputy’s gun, killed a judge and two other people and carjacked a reporter’s vehicle to escape, setting off a massive manhunt and creating widespread chaos across Atlanta.
That was in a courthouse with security. The Moffat County Courthouse has none, and local judges would like to see that change.
Court administrators make a decent argument for improved security. Moffat County leads the 14th Judicial District in felonies, but it is the only court in the three-county district that doesn’t have security measures in place. Courtrooms can be volatile places. As Evan Herman, the 14th Judicial District administrator, noted, “It’s the only place parties in emotional situations are forced to come together to settle those conflicts.”
Judges and prosecutors would like to see a metal detector installed at the courthouse and for the county to hire a deputy to man the machine.
The Moffat County Sheriff’s office has metal detectors that could be installed at the courts. But it would cost at least $55,000 to hire a deputy to man the metal detector, Undersheriff Jerry Hoberg said.
Commissioners just approved the hiring of a jail deputy and that took a lot of persuading on the part of jail officials. They had to justify the expense with data about jail populations, safety and liability issues.
Now commissioners are being asked to dig deeper into their pockets for a pretty big “what if.”
Judges are the people who mete out punishment to protect society. They are also most vulnerable to someone seeking revenge against the system. Shouldn’t we protect the people who protect us? Absolutely.
If it saves one life, isn’t it worth paying $55,000 a year to ensure that no Atlanta-style shootings occur here? It’s pretty easy to buy that line of thinking, but government entities could find themselves shelling out a lot more if they wanted to guard against every possible disaster.
Why don’t we have seat belts on school buses? Because federal transportation authorities have decided the cost exceeds the probability that they’ll make a big difference. They think school buses are pretty safe to begin with.
That’s the issue commissioners will have to weigh. What’s the likelihood that some crazed person could enter the courthouse bent on killing or hurting people?
It’s a classic cost-benefit analysis that resource-challenged organizations have to make every day.
Court administrators say Moffat County is exposing itself to greater liability if doesn’t take steps to boost security and some kind of disaster strikes.
We appreciate the potential dangers and hope our commissioners can come up with a solution that provides some peace of mind for courtroom personnel.
But when things are as tight financially as Moffat County commissioners say they are, it may take some creative solutions.
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