Upshur County District Clerk Carolyn Parrott and two local attorneys expressed concern to the County Commissioners Court on Thursday about the lack of security in the Upshur County Justice Center, but two commissioners said a new system will be implemented Monday.
After Pct. 4 Comm. Mike Spencer and Pct. 2 Comm. Cole Hefner said the new system would be put into place, the court took no action on Mrs. Parrott’s request to obtain proposals for installing bulletproof glass at her office’s front counter.
A deputy sheriff had been manning a metal detector inside the Justice Center, which houses the 115th District Courtroom and Sheriff’s Office, and some other county offices. But the then-deputy who normally handled that, Stanley Jenkins, took office as a county constable Jan. 1, and Mrs. Parrott said there had been no security in the front of the building since the beginning of the year.
County Judge Dean Fowler said after the meeting that situation resulted because Sheriff Anthony Betterton’s office hasn’t “been able to hire anybody for what we pay.” In addition, Fowler said, several deputies have resigned to work for other agencies.
During the meeting, Spencer said the Sheriff’s Office has someone hired and that the new system will be handled differently from the old. Hefner said the new system will be a “lot more effective.”
Local attorney Karen Bishop said she was glad to hear security will be reimposed, and that “I don’t understand why it was ever left unmanned.”
She pointed out there had once been a shooting in a Tyler courthouse, and that an assistant district attorney was recently killed near a courthouse in Kaufman.
“I think that everyone (coming into the Justice Center) should be checked,” Mrs. Bishop said, indicating she thought even her clients should go through the metal detector. “There have been courthouse shootings where attorneys have opened fire. . . I think it’s (having no security) unsafe.”
Another local attorney, Brent Goudarzi, agreed with Mrs. Bishop, and said that if one of his clients was injured due to no security, the county is “the number one target” for legal action. He warned against failing to remedy the situation by Monday, or remedying it for only 1-2 months.
“There is no excuse for someone getting injured,” said Goudarzi, expressing appreciation to the court for acting on the situation.
Even after hearing Spencer say security was to be reinstated, Pct. 1 Comm. Paula Gentry, a former county employee, said, “I would still like to see them (the District Clerk’s Office) possibly get the glass.”
Fowler said the county budget had $5,000 for facility improvements that could be used for it, but nobody made any motion concerning the issue.