More courtroom security in Polk budget

Published 4:40 pm Monday, May 17, 2010

Polk County is proposing to add funding for courtroom security in its 2010-2011 budget, following an inmate escape from the courtroom last year.
The Polk County Board of Commissioners are currently drafting the new budget, which will take effect July 1. The board has included $10,600 to add cameras, monitors, new door accesses and panic buttons for the courthouse.
Commissioners held a worksession last week to discuss department proposals and heard from clerk of courts Charlene Owens.
Owens said the security system was requested by Sheriff Donald Hill, the bailiff and jail administrator. The new system will allow the sheriffs office and communications department to monitor the courtroom. The new system will include access cards for the back door of the courthouse and the side door in the courtroom.
Inmate Steven Taylor escaped out the side door of the courtroom last year and out the back door of the courthouse. He was caught eight days later and is still awaiting trial on escape charges.
Commissioner Warren Watson asked Owens if the new system would prevent future escapes from the courthouse. Owens said it should, especially with the special locks on the back door.
Cameras will be placed in the clerk office, the office across the hall, in the hallway, the front foyer and in the courtroom.
Commissioner vice-chair Watson says he still doesnt understand why security wasnt included when the county did $1 million worth of renovations to the courthouse a few years ago. Owens responded that security was requested then.
The new system will also include some panic buttons in the courthouse. Currently, one panic button in a clerk office is the only security the courthouse has, with the exception of metal detectors to enter the courtroom.

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