Garco courthouse sees tighter security | AspenTimes.com
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Garco courthouse sees tighter security

Chad Abraham

While Garfield County is tightening courthouse security starting June 12, Pitkin County has no such plans to ratchet up safeguards anytime soon.Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said Thursday that all exits and entrances except for the one on the building’s east side will be locked. Those with courthouse business funnel through that entrance, where there is an X-ray machine, metal detectors and three county deputies.In addition, the courthouse has closed-circuit television. The county added the new infrastructure, which cost $66,000, about a year ago, but most of the entrances remained unlocked. The county hired the three new deputies around the same time.Officials didn’t immediately lock the doors, but the grace period ends next month.Vallario said having the public go through the checkpoint is the best way to ensure safety in the individual courtrooms.”Rather than trying to secure five different courtrooms on three different floors, we just got together and said, ‘Let’s just do the building,'” he said.Courthouse employees will have their own entrance and magnetic identification cards “so they don’t have to bog down the system,” Vallario said.Shootings at an Atlanta courthouse in March 2005 were motivation for the increased security in Garfield County. Four people died, including a judge, a court reporter and a deputy, when an inmate overpowered another deputy and took her gun.The shootings “certainly got the judges’ attention,” Vallario said of the Glenwood Springs judiciary. “That was probably the focal point when we started discussing this.”They just said, ‘It’s still Glenwood and it’s still nice, but it’s time.'”Similar measures are not in store for Pitkin County’s historic courthouse, said jail supervisor Billy Tomb. The building already has several measures, including panic buttons on the judges’ benches.Hitting the button sets off numerous alarms in the police and sheriff’s departments two stories below.”We haven’t had any requests from judges as far as upping security. Of course we do that on as-needed basis,” Tomb said. “If there’s a high-risk inmate, of course we alter the security level.”In such cases, more deputies are assigned to the courtroom. A portable metal detector that is usually in the jail entrance can be used in the courthouse, Tomb said.He noted that the Garfield County courthouse has a much larger caseload and therefore likely has more high-risk inmates and parolees going through.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is chad@aspentimes.com


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