(BEDFORD) - The Lawrence County Commissioners passed an ordinance restricting possession of weapons in the Courthouse and Courthouse Plaza.
The ordinance bans all:
1. Deadly weapons
3. Electric Stun Guns
6. Explosives refers to any agent or substance tending or serving to explode
7. Explosives but not limited to gunpowder and dynamite
9. Any other object that in the manner in which it is used or could ordinarily be used or is intended to be used is readily capable of causing serious bodily injury as determined by the Lawrence County Sheriff's officers.
The following people will be exempt from the law: law enforcement officers, department of correction officers, community correction officers, judicial officers and probation officers who are in the courthouse conducting official business and authorized to carry deadly weapons. Employees of the courthouse who carry chemical spray devices for personal protection are also exempt.
These people will not be exempt if they or any member of their family is a party to any court proceedings.
Any person violating the law will be in contempt of court and could be arrested and fined up to $2,500 and have the weapon confiscated.
Sheriff Craig says there will be lockers available for those who have weapons to secure them before entering the courthouse or the courthouse plaza.
Activity conducted in the courts can often be emotionally charged.
"In the court settings, you have to take precautions for when people react poorly in the heat of the moment. Because if they had a weapon, they might engage in an activity that might harm themselves or someone else," Craig said. "It's important we take all the elements of danger out of the situation we can when emotions are high."
While now there are no cell phones allowed past the security checkpoint at Courthouse Plaza, it hasn't been determined since the check point will be changed, they will be allowed in the building, but it will still be up to the judges to determine if they are allowed in the courtroom.
"The judges will determine the regulations on cell phones in their courtrooms," Craig says. "If the judges determine to continue with the rule, someone caught with a cell phone in the courtroom could face arrest, jail time and fines."
Craig told the commissioners that beginning next week all county employees will always be issued identification badges and will be required to wear them.
At the courthouse, the security checkpoint will remain in front of the court room on the second floor, for now.
One precaution that has taken at Lawrence Circuit Court is to put up a nylon cordon to prevent people from getting to the court offices without passing through the screener.
Because of the additional people who will now pass through the security checkpoint, it was necessary to hire another security officer and purchase bag screeners which are now in place.
The county council chose to phase in the changes for hiring officers to help with security because of funding Craig says. So it will be 2014 before another security officer is hired.
At that point, it will be likely that the security station will be moved to one of the courthouse entrances and the other entrance will be closed at the courthouse.
"We are anticipating hiring an officer after January 1 and then one in 2015," Craig says.
The move comes after a consulting group and a security adviser recommended some of the changes to improve safety at the two courts in Courthouse Plaza and the one - Lawrence Circuit Court - in the courthouse, according to Craig.
Local committee members who studied the security issue were Judge Andrea McCord, Judge Michael Robbins, Judge William Sleva, Commissioner Chris May, Councilmen Mike Branham and Jim Edwards, and Nedra Brock from the probation department.
Also, they received input from a security adviser from the Indiana Judicial Center in Indianapolis assist and security adviser Bob Champion.
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