“In accordance with the security directive from the Ohio Supreme Court, Judge (Russell) Kegley and I have continued to move our efforts toward securing this building,” Portsmouth Municipal Court Judge Steven Mowery said. “I want to tonight apprise City Council and the mayor of our progress and where we hope to be with this.”
Mowery went on to tell Portsmouth City Council the judges’ plans for the installation of security equipment.
“The exact means of totally securing the building we haven’t settled on. We have obtained the equipment. We have obtained grants to secure. Our staffing levels — we still need to allocate our schedules to secure the front entrance to the building, which isn’t going to be the most convenient for handicap accessibility,” Mowery said. “We’re going to have to have an entryway off the side, as we know currently the downstairs through the Police Department is closed off. So there are still some problems, but it is still in accordance with the directive so we intend to proceed. And we hope to be able to implement that with our security scanning of people, which will then eliminate the need for scanners on each of the courtroom entrances.”
After the meeting, Mowery and bailiff Eric Brown went into detail as to what people coming into the City Building can expect.
“We have a metal detector and an X-ray machine donated from the Franklin County Courthouse,” Brown said. “It didn’t cost us anything — just the trip to get it.”
Mowery said the equipment would be installed at the front entrance in the lobby of the City Building.
“The idea is to lock all the doors. The side entrance is going to have to be our handicapped-accessible entrance. So there is going to be a buzzer there so that if anyone needs that access, they can come in, go to the elevator, and come up. Otherwise, the entire building we hope to secure,” Mowery said. “Some of the urgency is compounded by the police being moved out of here right now. We have no police presence in the entire building. So we are hopeful we can implement that pretty quickly.”
Brown said there will be security cameras and emergency buttons for the judges, the mayor, and the clerk of court’s offices, that will, when pushed, summon the police and the security guards in the building.
“One thing I want to make clear, Judge Kegley and I want to be where the police are, but we don’t want to be in the Fire Station,” Mowery said. “It is our goal, we would love see all the city offices together, but right now this is something we feel needs to be done with this building and with this day and time.”
Mowery said, under the current circumstances, there is no security until you get inside the courtroom.
“We have in the courtroom setting every day, victims as well as defendants, families of both, and it’s an adversarial system at times,” Mowery said. “So even in civil cases you have a lot of emotions, and in this day and time I think it is important that we have security for the building.”
Mowery said he is sure there is personnel to operate the equipment, and that all he has to deal with is scheduling, taking into consideration vacations.
“Beginning next week we have added another person, and we think we’re going to be able to staff and secure the building with what we have,” Mowery said. “Judge Kegley and I do believe it is time to do this for this building. And we hope to proceed with that. We know that we are going to have to change our lifestyles to some extent, and the way that we do business. But quite honestly it is what has to be done.”
FRANK LEWIS may be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232, or firstname.lastname@example.org.