Grant to fund court security

Funding for Archuleta County’s courthouse security program remains secure through fiscal year 2009, following board action Tuesday.

In a unanimous vote, the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners approved receipt of a $57,946 grant from the Colorado State Court Administrator’s Office to fund one full time deputy and to add additional security related improvements to the courtroom area.

There are no county matching funds required.

In addition to providing $48,227 for salary and benefits for the court security officer, the grant will provide nearly $10,000 in additional funding for a security mirror, a hand-held security wand, a TASER, a video surveillance system and a panic alarm system.

The addition of a court security officer, a walk through metal detector, magnetometer and other security enhancements mark a major shift from business as usual in the courts. For example, up until May 2008, the courts had scant security and no program for screening individuals for weapons prior to their entering the courtroom. In fact, during the first week of the program, court services officer Bill Thomas seized 12 knives in one day. In addition, Thomas’ metal detector prevented one individual from entering the courtroom with a gun.

During a July interview, Thomas said the number of weapons collected was proof that the security program was much needed.

“To my understanding, we are one of the last courthouses in the state to get security,” said Thomas. “It’s certainly not perfect. But think of the benchmark before. We had no security whatsoever. Theoretically, you could have brought anything in.”

Funding for 2008 totaled $46,525 which provided funding for a court security officer. In addition, the sheriff’s department provided funding for a hand-held metal detector and the installation of a walk-through metal detector already owned by the county.

Archuleta County Special Projects Manager Karin Kohake said she increased the county’s 2009 funding request to accommodate Thomas’ salary and benefits and to pay for the additional security enhancements. She said the state awarded the entire funding amount she requested.

According to state sources, the current grant will fund fiscal year 2009 and is renewable annually, with funding slated to continue through 2017.

The program is funded by allocating a portion of court fees to the grant pool.

james@pagosasun.com