GREENVILLE — An updated security plan for the Darke County Courthouse is being considered in light of a mandate from the Ohio Supreme Court.
“I think everybody who works here likes the idea of having security,” Darke County Prosecutor R. Kelly Ormsby said. “Somebody could come in here who’s angry about anything at all, and they could try to bring in a weapon.”
At minimum, according to Ormsby, a new security plan likely would involve establishing a single point of entrance to the courthouse — probably near the back of the building — that would be manned by Darke County Sheriff’s deputies during business hours. These deputies would screen anyone trying to enter to make sure they’re not carrying any weapons.
Other measures could include a centralized location equipped with video surveillance monitors where security personnel could observe events taking place on other floors and possibly a holding area for deputies to detain individuals caught trying to bring prohibited items into the courthouse.
“All of our surrounding counties have those measures,” Ormsby said. “So we’re kind of at the tail end of that issue.”
Increased security precautions are an important preventive measure, according to Ormsby.
“In the times we live in, you don’t want to wait until after something bad happens to start doing these things,” Ormsby said. “We have to protect the people who work here, as well as any members of the public who might happen to be in the building, whether for court appearances, to pay taxes or any other reason.”
Judges working in the building will have first say as to what they think would be a reasonable security plan, Ormsby said. Then whatever measures are agreed upon would be paid for by the county commissioners and implemented by the Darke County Sheriff’s Office.
Chief Darke County Probation Officer James D. Mollette also thinks increased security should be a priority. Just last week, Mollette said, a pre-trial defendant being supervised in connection with a burglary charge illegally left the premises following a routine drug screen. The man was quickly taken into custody outside the courthouse, but more centralized security could allow deputies to keep an eye on those in the building and to act quickly if they appear to be trying to flee.
“He was arrested and went to jail for a couple days, then released after posting a significant bond,” Mollette said. “So he’s been held accountable for that. But I think if we had the courthouse security that we’re steering towards, it probably would’ve been a little easier to prevent someone from just walking out of the building.”
There are disagreements as to exactly what level of increased security is needed, according to Mollette.
“We are a rural county,” Mollette said. “So we have some people who say, ‘This is how it’s always been.’ So they’re used to that. But they don’t get to see the things that we see every day.”
Prosecutor Ormsby said that new security measures might begin to be implemented as early as June of this year, though he’s not aware of any finalized plan that’s been presented to county authorities as yet.
“But I don’t think there’s any question that a security plan is coming,” Ormsby said.