County officials consider increased courthouse security

Saturday, February 9, 2013

A recent threat to Putnam Superior Court Judge Denny Bridges has county officials considering beefing up security at the Putnam County Courthouse.

The threat, made in January by an individual unhappy with a ruling in Bridges' court, never materialized, but it did make for a day of high alert for courthouse personnel.

All but one of the first-floor doors to the courthouse were locked, and courthouse security officer Mike O'Hair manned the unlocked door, monitoring those who entered for any sort of threat.

While the man never showed up, the incident got judges Bridges and Matthew Headley thinking about the possibility of beefing up security at 1 Courthouse Square.

The judges, along with adult probation officer Teresa Parrish, spoke with the Putnam County Commissioners during their Feb. 4 meeting about some possible security options.

One possibility, used in Hendricks County, is to permanently have only one unlocked courthouse entrance. The lone entrance would be equipped with a metal detector manned by one or two security officers.

Headley said safety issues do not just concern the courtrooms, but also the clerk, treasurer and real estate offices.

All three commissioners expressed interest in some sort of increased security.

"You're in the courthouse every day, we aren't," Commissioner Nancy Fogle said. "You know what people say to you."

Headley said in Hendricks County, there are bailiffs assigned to the courtrooms who provide security for those locations without taking someone away from the entrance.

Parrish said most courthouses in the state have some sort of security beyond the sign posted at the door of the Putnam County Courthouse warning people not to bring in weapons.

"Most every courthouse I go to has some kind of security," Parrish said. "I'm surprised we haven't gone to something before."

Parrish said a large knife was recently found on someone inside the courthouse, adding that she wouldn't doubt if guns have also been brought in.

"I haven't been concerned, but it's getting worse," she said.

"I think Teresa's right," Bridges said. "It's a matter of when something's going to happen, not if."

The courthouse already has a metal detector kept on the third floor, but it is only utilized when deemed necessary because of a controversial or high-profile case.

Bridges said that if someone comes into the building with the intent to hurt or kill people, this is simply not enough.

"Realistically, if someone's in that state of mind, they're going to start on the first floor," he said.

Additional equipment and staffing would not be cheap for the county, but Fogle and fellow commissioners Don Walton and David Berry said the issue is one that needs to be addressed regardless of cost.

"Somehow we'll figure it out," Fogle said.

In the meantime, the commissioners asked the judges to reach out to their colleagues in other counties to find out what sort of options the county may have for additional security.

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  • It's a shame it has to come to this, but I totally understand. When I bring my best friend from Indianapolis to visit and enjoy the country, she is always amazed at how the courthouse is so open and free access. It's such a beautiful building, so much history, and it feels more like a museum than a courthouse. It's a shame it has to be tarnished with metal detectors and security personnel and locked doors.

    -- Posted by Lindy62 on Sat, Feb 9, 2013, at 7:49 AM
  • *

    Yes, please add more restraints to liberty via government over-reach.

    Never mind that you cannot control "crazy". If someone wants to shoot up a building or a person, they will find a way.

    Perhaps the judges should start carrying firearms, as well as letting LAW-ABIDING CITIZENS exercise their right to carry in a PUBLIC building.

    And, despite what the honorable Judge Bridges thinks - a person that is intent to harm people at random is probably NOT going to even go to the courthouse. (There are better "targets" if the bad guy merely wants to inflict as much death/injury as possible.) If a bad guy comes to the courthouse for mayhem, then they more likely have a specific target, which is probably NOT on the first floor.

    Do not be fooled by cries of "safety" or other such claptrap. If they (the judges/the commissioners or council/etc) really wanted to keep people safe they would let people (employees & us little people) carry firearms into the courthouse.

    -- Posted by dreadpirateroberts on Tue, Feb 12, 2013, at 1:46 PM
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