By KARLA POMEROY
A committee to being researching courthouse security in Big Horn County started with a discussion with the Big Horn County commissioners last Tuesday.
The committee is chaired by Emergency Management Coordinator John Hyde with members Sheriff Ken Blackburn, Basin Police Chief Chris Kampbell, Sheriff Capt. Brent Godfrey, former Basin Police Chief and member of the Local Emergency Planning Committee Dennis Peters and Deb Rathbun of the sheriff’s office.
Hyde said the committee would be walking through the courthouse to check for security issues and talk to department heads about concerns and they wanted to start the discussion by speaking with the commissioners.
Blackburn said it is important to plan and move forward with courtroom security. “I know we have a lot extremists on both ends, on the right and left, in this county and I expect this to increase with people’s attitudes toward government. We even had an emotionally charged incident in the courtroom within last 24 hours.”
He added, “It’s imperative we continue to peck away at this and have commissioners support.”
Blackburn said while the committee could form a Cadillac plan, their focus will be “what can we do to make people safe and afford it.”
The committee then asked the commissioners if they had a written plan for escape from the commissioners meeting room or a plan for dealing with conflict. Chairman Jerry Ewen said “no.”
In response to what their reaction plan was, Commissioner Thomas “Scotty” Hinman joked, “Scream and hide under the table.” Blackburn said Hyde visited with Washakie County recently and their plan calls for jumping out the second-story window.
The committee members said simply moving furniture could provide an escape route to the clerk’s office.
There was discussion of putting red warning lights around the courthouse that would light up when there is an incident somewhere in the building so each office would know there was a potentially dangerous situation in the building.
Ewen said he liked the idea of the red warning light that comes on when there’s trouble in the courthouse.
He said he would also like a way to lock down safe zones and front doors from a central location.
He said the committee also needs to look at forming a plan on how to identify an intruder, noting that law enforcement responding won’t know who is supposed to be in the building and where they are supposed to be.
Ewen said he was also like safety training for all county employees.
Clerk Lori Smallwood added she also would like to “train our employees to recognize when a situation is escalating and give our employees tools and skills to handle situations.”