Sheriff outlines additional courthouse security needs

Board of Supervisors
By: 
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     The future security needs inside the Jones County Courthouse and the county’s additional properties was a topic of discussion during the Dec. 27 Jones County Supervisors meeting.

     The Courthouse Security Committee (which is made up of representatives from the various departments) met on Dec. 19. At that time, they put together a list of future security needs:

     • Auto door locks

     • Shatterproof film, window ladders, door hinge covers

     • Steel powder-coated plates installed inside the judges’ benches

     • Panic alarms and outside door alarms installed at the Broadway Place Annex and Engineer’s Office

     • Panic alarms installed in the Engineer’s Office

     Sheriff Greg Graver said many of those suggestions were county employee requests.

     This fiscal year, panic buttons and camera monitoring systems were installed throughout the courthouse. Graver said those security measures seem to be working just fine. However, no funding was set aside by the supervisors for FY 2018. Additional funding that was needed was taken from the county’s Building Fund Balance.

     “It’s up to you to decide whether you want to fund these projects or not,” Graver said to the board. He said going into the budget season, it might be a good idea to consider some set-aside.

     Projects Graver thought to be of the utmost importance included:

     • Two panic buttons for the Engineer’s Office and Board Place

     • Six gun lockers for the second floor of the courthouse, and two for the first floor by the Clerk’s Office. Signage would also be needed near the lockers.

     Earlier this year, the Iowa court system handed down a measure stipulating that guns were not allowed in buildings where court proceedings are held. Since then, that measure has changed to guns not allowed on the floors where court is held. For Jones County, that would include the entire second floor of the courthouse and the first floor where the Clerk of Court Office is housed. Graver said the code spells out that weapons are not allowed in the Clerk’s Office or within the confines of a courtroom. The lockers will hopefully prevent that from happening.

     “Most people don’t know that you can’t have weapons in both places,” Graver explained.

     On the same day the Courthouse Security Committee met, Graver said Chief Deputy Jeff Swisher responded to a situation in the Treasurer’s Office involving an “unruly customer.” Graver said the staff called down to the Sheriff’s Office versus using the panic button system. He said perhaps additional training is needed on this matter.

     “The man was not from Jones County,” Graver said. “He was being less than respectful and was escorted out of the courthouse.”

     Supervisor Ned Rohwedder questioned if there was a need to have a metal detector installed in front of the magistrate courtroom. Graver said the current metal detector in front of the district courtroom is movable and could be used anywhere if needed.

     “We typically use it for high-profile cases,” Graver said. With divorce proceedings or civil cases, he said a metal detector is rarely used.

     “Our court security team carries tasers and firearms,” he said, if needed. “And the judges are happy with the security we have.”

     Graver said he would proceed with obtaining bids for additional panic buttons, and report back to the supervisors.

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