Wednesday, June 15, 2016

EDITORIAL >> Court security costs money

The Lonoke County Office of Emergency Services will be hosting an active-shooter class from 9 a.m. to noon today at the Lonoke County Annex. County employees, business owners and civilians are encouraged to attend.

Then on Thursday, the Lonoke County Quorum Court will have one more chance to provide money to hire two sheriff deputies for the newly installed security checkpoints at courthouse.

Two metal detectors, purchased with a $14,167 grant, have been placed near the courtrooms. Sheriff John Staley has asked the justices of the peace for $100,000 annually to station two deputies, who would not only operate the equipment but also improve security at the courthouse.

The metal detectors were part of a security overhaul of the courthouse that also added cameras, panic buttons and reconfigured entrances and exits.

Prosecuting Attorney Chuck Graham has sought to improve security at the courthouse since being elected in 2010. It’s been a slow process, and in the age of mass shootings, it’s clear why added security measures are badly needed.

County officials recently gave themselves permission to carry concealed firearms, which may have convinced them that metal detectors aren’t needed anymore. But they’ve ignored the needs of ordinary citizens who deserve better protection at public places.

The cost of manning the metal detectors should have been more explicit before applying for the grant, but county officials should have expected there to be a cost to operate them.

If the county doesn’t want to pay for more personnel, then the metal detectors should be returned. The county could always reapply for the grant later.

The sheriff said his staff is already stretched too thin and can’t reassign deputies from patrol duty to the courthouse five days a week. What happened in Orlando over the weekend is a reminder of what can happen when officials don’t prepare for the worst.

Here’s hoping members of the quorum court funds the two deputies and make the courthouse more secure.