Lawrence County Courthouse gets new metal detectors

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

WALNUT RIDGE, AR (KAIT) - On Thursday a gunman opened fire in a courtroom in upper Minnesota,wounding the prosecutor and two others.

Now the issue of courtroom security is being addressed in Lawrence county.

It is unusual to have serious problems in small courthouses around Region 8 but it does happen. With the aid of grant money, Lawrence County Sheriff Jody Dotson said they are stepping up security a big notch.

Dotson,"We always have at least one courtroom security officer present anytime court is going on."

Sheriff Dotson says depending on the case or the crowd he may add more people. Dotson said DHS cases can become volatile.

Dotson,"You know if there's the possibility of someone losing their family or children.You know tensions really fly high on those cases. We always try to have a little extra security on those dates."

As far as metal detection goes, it's pretty basic.

Up to now the only thing the deputies have inside the courtroom are small metal detectors with fairly low sensitivity. Now they are going to be issued new larger wands that are much more sensitive to even the smallest things like a clip on a pen or even pocket change.

Also they will be installing a Garrett Walk-Through detector for outside the courtroom door.

Sheriff Dotson showed me the box the detector is still in and explained exactly how the new detector work.

Dotson, "It's got lights on it so wherever the metal detector detects metal the lights light up in that area." The LED lights run up and down both sides of the detector and will make pinpointing the area easier. Then the deputies will use the larger hand-held wands and personal searches if necessary.

The new equipment was bought with grant money from the Arkansas Courtroom Security Committee and funds from the Sheriff's office.

Hopefully these improved security measures will prevent a courtroom attack on the judge or court officials.

Dotson, "We had a shooting yesterday (Thursday) I believe it was in Minnesota and then a few months back we had one here in Arkansas." The shooter in Arkansas was killed by law enforcement officers.

Sheriff Dotson is the only sheriff on the State of Arkansas Courtroom Security committee. He is heavily involved in planning and training of Courtroom Security Officers. Also he helps funnel money to the right needs.

Dotson, "I worked with the grant committee trying to get money out to counties so they can get equipment they need to improve courthouse security.

In all his years in law enforcement, I asked Dotson. "Have you every had a real problem in a courtroom?"

Dotson, "We've had some people charge the bench in years past. And we've had some fights break out in court. But nothing really serious as far as anybody pulling a weapon or anything."

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