Judge Browning Addresses Commission Re: Courthouse SecurityOct 24th, 2013 | By Admin | Category: Front Page
By Lynette Norris
Greene Publishing, Inc.
Saying that he understood that it was tough budget times for the county and that costly metal detectors at the courthouse entrances weren’t feasible at the moment, Circuit Judge Bailey Browning did have a few much less expensive proposals that would fill part of the gap in the meantime. It would not be an immediate pell-mell rush to shut down access to the courthouse, but rather a measured process that would allow time for newspaper announcements, signs to be put up at the courthouse to let people know what is coming, and ways of educating the public about why the measures are necessary. It also would allow an “acclimation period” so people could get used to the idea before it becomes a reality. The public would still have free access to the courthouse, Bailey told the commissioners. “Madison has a long and storied history of access to public officials.” However, times have changed, and for everyone’s safety, including judges, lawyers, courthouse employees and members of the public who need to come into the courthouse for any reason, the number of entrances to the courthouse need to be reduced, so they can be secured and monitored. Today, it is rare to go into a courthouse anywhere in the country and not find some kind of security in place, and Bailey believes that although there may be some initial grumbling, there won’t be any great hue and cry. “People realize it’s needed now,” he said. Courthouse incidents are on the rise throughout the whole country. “The time when it wouldn’t be needed is gone with the wind.” His target date is Jan. 1, 2014. His proposals are to close off all entrances (North, South and East) to the courthouse except for the West entrance, which has the best and most available parking for the public. The only other entrance to remain open would be the elevator for handicapped access. Courthouse employees would still be able to enter and leave from any entrance with key fobs and the South entrance would be reserved for law enforcement to bring prisoners in and take them directly upstairs to the courtroom. Madison County Sheriff Ben Stewart joined Browning at the podium to help explain how the system would be set up and how it would be funded with traffic ticket money rather than tax money. With only two entrances to watch, one security officer could monitor everyone coming and going. The goal would be to have one point of entry where everyone knows that when they go in, they will have to walk past a deputy, and if they have a large or oversized bag, they may be asked to present it for inspection. The commission agreed to put the matter on the agenda for the next meeting.