“Lots of people pass through this courthouse everyday, to do business of all kinds, and it needs to be secure,” Fourth Circuit Judge Roger Henderson told Chesterfield County Council members recently.
Henderson told council July 11 he is not satisfied with the current level of security at the Chesterfield County Courthouse, even with the use of a metal detector that has been in place since the mid-1990s.
“I hate to come begging again,” said Henderson, as he asked council to pay for security up-grades mandated by the United States Security Commission. “I’ve already drafted a letter telling them money is difficult to come by and we’re doing the best we can.”
“There’s no way we can afford to do the entire laundry list of things that need to be done,” said Henderson. However, he said he had done his best to prioritize the list. “Your job,” he told council, “is to decide the most critical of these needs.”
The first problem at hand, said Henderson, “is the manner in which security of approached.”
“No one who sets off the alarm, should be allowed to enter the courthouse without being searched,” said Henderson, “… no matter who it is, or how well they are known. No one should ever be asked, in jest, whether or not they have a gun.”
“Family Court can be a highly emotionally charged and explosive atmosphere,” said Henderson. “We want to stop problems before they get in here.” In a lot of courtrooms and government buildings across America, you can’t even take a cell phone in with you anymore,” said Henderson. “We have to step it up.”
Henderson’s first request is have an academy trained Class A officer to man the metal detector machine at the entrance door to the courthouse. His second request is to purchase an x-ray machine to help with detecting potential problems.
“We have security cameras,” said Henderson, “but there’s nobody monitoring them.”
Not only do intrusion alarms need an upgrade, but “food for thought,” said Henderson, are questions concerning security at new buildings the county has recently purchased for the purpose of moving some of the county’s services. “It’s not just those directly related to the court system we need to protect,” said Henderson, but everyone.
Henderson suggested county employees have card access to the building, rather than keys. And lastly, he expressed concern with preventative measures against the possibility of toxic warfare through the air vents of the Courthouse.
Chesterfield County Councilwoman Lenora Powe asked Henderson for a complete list of the requests by the Security Commission, which he said he would gladly provide for all of council.
In other business, Chesterfield County Council Chairman Matt Rivers made a motion that passed unanimously, to allow the building committee the authority to make decisions regarding feasibility studies for the best possible use of the recently purchased Western Auto Building in Chesterfield. Rivers suggested that any council members wanting a closer connection with those decisions attend the committee meetings.
— Staff Writer Karen Kissiah can be reached by calling 843-537-5261, or by email at email@example.com.