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Stephens Co. Sheriff Seeking More Courthouse Security

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STEPHENS CO., Okla_ Stephens County Officials are once again calling for enhanced security in the county's courthouse.

The district attorney and sheriff renewed their pleas to county commissioners following the crush of publicity that surrounded the arraignment of the three teens charged in Chris Lane's murder.  It raised anxiety among courthouse employees, making it a priority for officials to fix the courthouse's lack of security.

Sheriff McKinney said he needs at least three more deputies who will do nothing but handle courthouse security, as well as cameras and screening equipment that will cost about $250,000. He said given what has happened over the last few days, it is money that has to be spent.

"We are getting numerous complaints and numerous threats of all sorts," McKinney said. "I am not going to go into a lot of detail about it, but I call it a boiling point."

It's a place that can be the setting for a number of volatile situations. These are situations that evoke high levels of emotion and anger. McKinney said that he lacks the capabilities to fully manage these situations every day.

"We have taken it upon ourselves to try to secure the courthouse, to make it a safe environment for our employees and the people that come in to conduct business in the courthouse when we have had a high profile case," McKinney said.

McKinney said he has struggled to get county commissioners to fund his plan. So Monday, he and District Attorney Jason Hicks explained the risk the county faces if nothing is done.

"If something happened, the liability both on the county and the individual is there if they don't supply the funds and equipment to do this," Hicks said.

"That is a public entrance, and we have been bringing prisoners in that entrance," McKinney said. "I don't know how we have made it so long that we have not had a problem."

This move for more security is not just a reaction to recent events. It's a necessity for the people who work and visit the courthouse daily.

"For the more risky and dangerous points that we have around the courthouse, we want to make sure those are secure to allow the people that work here and the citizens that conduct business here to be safe when they are here," McKinney said.

McKinney will learn Wednesday if the county commissioners will support his call for the funds to make these changes. McKinney said the new security measures could begin being implemented as early as next week, depending on Wednesday's decision on his proposal.

 

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