Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

County weighs court security


November 15, 2017

Quay County Sheriff Russell Shafer works on setting up combination lockers that will be used by the public to store purses and other items not allowed in the 10th Judicial District Court.

Mass shootings in Clovis and south Texas has 10th Judicial Court officials, Quay County Sheriff's Office stressing the need for increased security at the Quay County Courthouse.

Quay County Sheriff Russell Shafer, 10th Judicial District Judge Albert Mitchell and court room security Dennis Townsend aired their desires to implement increased security on Monday at the regular meeting of the Quay County Commission.

"The security of the county employees, public and 10th judicial personnel is the focus of this request," Mitchell said.

Mitchell said there are major areas of concern with the current security at the courthouse. He said while security has been effective to date, increased active shooting situations as near by as Clovis has raised concerns to a higher level.

"What we are asking is for the commission to allow us to try out some increased security measures," Mitchell said.

Shafer said one of these measures would be to restrict access to the courthouse to the north door. He said the door, with handicap accessibility would also have a manned security station with a metal detector.

Townsend said currently, a sheriff's deputy is present outside the courtroom where people pass through the metal detector before entering. He said at times the deputy is called away, this leaves him alone in the courtroom.

"If someone passes through the detector, setting it off, it may take me sometime to get to the door to check the situation," Townsend said.

Shafer said the sheriff's office would assign a deputy to man the security checkpoint. He said this would be throughout the week not just when court is in session.

"One of the primary concerns of restricting access to the courthouse is the possible intimidation of voters," said Ellen White, Quay County Clerk.

White said the clerk's office is the primary location for early and absentee voting for the upcoming election. She said federal and state regulations mandate that during an election the Clerk's office must provide unrestricted access to voters and accommodate high-traffic volume.

"Lincoln County attempted a similar change in security and were threatened with a federal law suit because of it," White said.

A workshop where everyone could discuss the different options would be the best bet before any action is taken, said Mike Cherry, District 2 Commissioner.

"I would like to take a look at what different courthouses around the state are doing," Cherry said. "I am for increased security, but I also want to make sure the county services are still accessible to the public."

Mitchell said the courthouse access during elections could be adjusted to ensure it does not interfere with voters. He said the very request being made is to allow officials to implement new security measures now to see how they work.

"If the measures work they can stay in place, if they need adjustments then we can make them," Mitchell said.

There needs to be a written plan of what measures are to be put in place before the commission can make any form of approval, said Franklin McCasland, commission chair.

"A workshop would help officials develop such a plan," Cherry said.

The commission voted to hold a workshop to discuss the security options for the courthouse.


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