County officials consider increased courthouse security
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.