Sheriff Craig Rowland is working to increase security at the Bingham County Courthouse in the months ahead.
Rowland said he is planning to hire two full-time and two part-time employees to handle courthouse security; he’s also hoping to obtain funding to add a metal detector and a machine that would scan bags and other items.
“I think that with society nowadays, it is important to have security at the courthouse,” Rowland said, adding that court officials have felt threatened during incidents in the past.
The new employees will man the metal detector and scanning equipment and quickly respond to any problems that arise in the courthouse, Rowland said. The employees will also help out with needs at the jail.
The changes won’t likely take affect until next year, but Rowland feels the measures are important.
“I want (court) employees to feel safe and the public to feel safe,” he said.
Bingham County isn’t the first courthouse to make such changes for security reasons.
Sheriff Lorin Nielsen said the Bannock County Courthouse has had a metal scanning system, similar to those found in airports, in place for years.
Court marshals use a camera to monitor the systems and are able to unlock the doors to let people through once they are cleared, Nielsen said. In addition, marshals are assigned to protect judges and citizens and make sure prisoners don’t try to escape. They also walk the interior and exterior of the building to make sure everything is OK.
Nielsen was at the courthouse in the mid 1980s when a man, who was upset with his ex-wife, walked into the courthouse and started shooting. He worked with the sheriff at that time to disarm the man and get the victim to safety.
No one was injured in that incident, but Nielsen said he’s grateful for the security equipment and marshals that have helped prevent a similar incident from reoccurring.
“We have not had anything like that since we established this security,” he said.
The Caribou County Courthouse also uses metal detectors and video cameras to increase security, said Sheriff Ric Anderson.
The Power County Courthouse has a metal detector, although it isn’t always manned, as well as a deputy on site, said Sheriff Jim Jeffries, adding that more personnel are assigned to the courthouse during certain trials. But like Rowland, he is hoping to increase security in the future.
“Could it be enhanced? Yes, it sure could be,” he said, adding that he plans to meet with commissioners in the near future to discuss that very issue.