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Briefcase bomb scare prompts review


Not enough bailiffs
Clerk of Court Kim Gasperson Justice was not at the counter when the Quinone delivered the tape-wrapped briefcase but saw the special ops work. She praised the response.
"No, I don't think it was" a security breach, she said. "I think that the Sheriff's Department acted appropriately when they figured out what was going on. The deputies that are here do a great job but the problem is the county does not allocate enough money to give them the people they need to secure a building that is this large and has this many courts running every day. They're using volunteers the best they can. As far as the quality of security I think that it's gone up significantly and these guys do the best they can do ... They're trained to look at knives and stuff like that; they're not trained to look if there's tape around the edges. That's not normal."
Security at the courthouse has been an ongoing discussion among court personnel, the sheriff's department and the Board of Commissioners for several years. In early 2012, the courthouse entrance was moved from the front steps entrance to the basement. The steps created a problem because it's not handicapped accessible. The county wanted to increase security, too, when it rented offices in the basement for the district headquarters for U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows.
The county is now planning a major renovation of the courthouse, and both McDonald and Gasperson-Justice say security has been a primary factor in the design.
"The driving force around the redo of this building is to increase security," Gasperson-Justice said. "The county's trying to secure the building with all this new stuff they're going to do. At the end of the day you still got to have people to man all that and I don't know if that's been contemplated how that's going to happen as far as resources. The sheriff's dealing with a limited budget."
The commissioners increased the sheriff's department budget so McDonald can hire more bailiffs. But part of the problem, McDonald said, is that one of his reform measures — processes "we put in place that have kept us from hiring people we should not hire" — has lengthened the time it takes to bring on new hires. The new higher standards and more thorough vetting, he said, have shrunk the pool of candidates.
"We just filled two courthouse slots to get us up to the 10 we're allotted," he said. As for the tape-wrapped briefcase, "I don't think you can ever have any kind of security breach or anything that goes wrong in the system (and not) have to always go back and say, OK what could we do better? I think that's true in anything we do in law enforcement."
County Commissioner Michael Edney, an attorney who has been vocal about the need for better security, said he was not aware that the briefcase had made it past security.
"It's important and I'm interested in it and I'll have to look at it," he said. "I thought they did a pretty good job. Everything I hear is (the search is) over the top as opposed to less. I guess it surprises me that it made it upstairs."
He said he would speak board Chairman Charlie Messer about it.
"Next time I see him we'll talk about," he said. "I know at the sheriff's department they always review things, study and see what they did and how they can improve it, and I'm sure they're doing that in this case."
Gasperson-Justice said she expects that is happening, too.
"Now that this has happened, sure," she said. "I doubt very seriously that they were ever trained that that was something that might be suspicious. They're not experts, they're volunteers. That's a huge difference."

 

 

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