New safety features to be installed at courthouse, jail

New safety features to be installed at courthouse, jail

By: By JOHN BRANNON Messenger Staff Reporter

New safety features at the Obion County Courthouse and the jail will be in place and operational by Feb. 1, according to Obion County Sheriff Jerry Vastbinder.
At its meeting Tuesday, the Obion County Commission voted to amend the county general fund by $1,778 and $889 as the county’s matching funds for grants totaling $17,500 from the Administrative Office of the Courts at Nashville.
Two new entrance doors at the courthouse will be equipped with “panic” bars and “panic” buttons will be installed in certain offices. Other security equipment includes a tazer stunbelt and audio/video surveillance systems.
“All the entries to the courthouse will come in on the first floor,” Vastbinder said. “Anyone going to the second floor or the basement will have to go through a security checkpoint which would have two officers and a magnetometer and X-ray machine to check any packages. Armed guards would still be working in the courtrooms, but the (security) people on the first floor at the security checkpoint could also monitor what’s going on in the basement and on the second floor.”
There’s a separate system slated for the small arraignment courtroom at the Obion County Law Enforcement Complex.
“There would be a monitor outside the courtroom on days when there’s a lot of people attending,” Vastbinder said. “The courtroom can hold only a dozen or so. People outside would actually be able to see on a monitor the judge and who(m) he’s arraigning. A family member could see and hear what the court date is and hear any conversation between the judge and the person being arraigned.
“Also, the safety of the court would still be intact. We could let some people in, but we wouldn’t overcrowd the courtroom.”
Vastbinder said he had hoped the new system would be in place this month but has moved the target date to Feb. 1.
“Mayor Benny McGuire has ordered the new doors and panic buttons,” he said. “We’ve got the X-ray machine and we’ll be moving the magnetometer down from the second floor as soon as the doors are in place.”
Published in The Messenger 1.25.08

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