Early last year the Johnson County Courthouse took on some very noticeable changes, however not without complaint and concerns.
In January of last year, Sheriff Mike Reece advised the community that the Johnson County Courthouse Security Committee was in the process of making changes to the courthouse that would increase security measures. Tennessee law states that each county will form a security committee in order to determine the security needs of the courtrooms in the county in order to provide a safe and secure facility. Our Johnson County Courthouse Security Committee is made up of Sheriff Mike Reece, Chancellor John Rambo, Clerk and Master Sherrie Fenner, Mayor Larry Potter, and District Attorney General Tony Clark, or a representative from his office. This committee does it’s very best to look after not only the security of the citizens and staff but also their concerns.
Several security changes were implemented this past year partially due to a study that was being done by the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy (TLETA). They came and noted all of the safety issues and then returned to us, the courthouse security committee, their recommendations. However, the most significant change and most complained of, has been the one main entrance.
The main entrance located on the northeast end of the building, also handicap accessible, now has a metal detector secured by a guard, that all public and employees must use before entering further inside the courthouse. The detector will detect any weapon that someone may be trying to conceal in order to take into offices and courtrooms where weapons are prohibited.
These changes were not made to inconvenience anyone. These changes were made with the safety of everyone in mind and again came by the recommendations of TLETA. There are still further recommendations that could still be made, however we cannot proceed with those until the funds are available. The funds used for the changes that are already in place came at no cost to the citizens and we would like for any future changes to also be at no cost to the citizens.
As Sheriff, I was elected and took an oath that I would enforce all laws, whether created by local, state or federal government, without question. With security threats and violent incidents on the rise, regardless of who is sheriff, safety must be a paramount concern for all persons. As a member of the Johnson County Courthouse Security Committee, I intend to take these recommendations seriously, specifically when pertaining to the safety of the citizens and community.
Recently, in two Tennessee county courthouses, there were security breaches in which one resulted in serious injury to a deputy. Due to these security breaches, the Tennessee Administrative Offices of the Court (AOC), launched a one-time security grant program, receiving $2 million. The one-time funds are to improve the court security and to provide safe and secure facilities to “conduct the business and duties of the court.” as required by TCA 16-2-505(d)(1).
Johnson County has applied for this grant and however left out of the list of approved grants reported and presented to the County Commission by the mayor in December, we will be receiving monies for this grant for continued courthouse security. Plans are already being talked about to further the safety at the separate entrance for the inmates from the jail and prison.
Chief Justice Jeff Bivens states, “Court security and safety are issues the Supreme Court of Tennessee takes very seriously.”
AOC Director also adds, “We appreciate the support of the General Assembly and Governor Haslam to help prevent additional violence in our courthouses so that the business of our courts and our citizens can continue safely and efficiently.”
Courthouses across the state and country are being forced to step up security measures. This is partially due to the society that we live in today and how so many things have changed.
While there is no one solution for issues with courthouse security, changes and proper planning must take place.
Sheriff Mike Reece