Smith County Courthouse Beefs Up Security - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News


Smith County Courthouse Beefs Up Security

When you go into the Smith County Courthouse now, you'll be greeted by some new faces: armed sheriff's deputies.

Today, they replaced the unarmed security screeners who used to check visitors at the two entrances.

Speaking of entrances, Sheriff J.B. Smith says he's looking into closing one of them, but it's not as simple as that.

"When you close one, you have to expand the other, so you don't have a backlog of people out there waiting in the rain," he said.

The security changes so far provide only a little comfort to the judge whose court handled the gunman's custody case. Her office was in the line of fire on February 24. Judge Carole Clark says she feels vulnerable having to walk through halls and up a flight of stairs just to get to her courtroom.

"In most courthouse situations, especially modern courthouses, the judge's office is attached to the courtroom so they don't have to walk through the litigants," Clark, of the 321st District Court, said. "As a family law judge, very often I make decisions that people don't like."

Sheriff Smith says he is working on better security, specifically for judges. However, that plan is under wraps.

"We're not telling the public what we're doing, obviously, because we don't want to let the people who have these ideas know how to circumvent that system," Smith said.

Another change you'll notice is new and improved security cameras that provide better image resolution.

While welcome changes, courthouse employees say they did not come fast enough.

"I think that after something this drastic happens and lives are lost and there are injured people and there are scared people in our courthouse, I think something needs to be done, and it needs to be done sooner than what has been," Pat Ammons, assistant court coordinator for Judge Clark's court, said.

Sheriff Smith says security changes take time and more are in store. He says before additional security enhancements take place, he needs to discuss them with the Commissioners Court. No date has been set for that meeting.

Julie Tam, reporting.


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