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Stephens County Courthouse to add x-ray machine to beef up security

Stephens County_Security will be getting tighter at the Stephens County Courthouse after they install an x-ray machine.  The courthouse already has metal detectors, and Sheriff Wayne McKinney says the new machine will be used in high-profile cases.  It allows the staff to examine purses, briefcases, or anything that could be used to conceal something such as a weapon.  And, they got this machine free!

McKinney says the 1,200-pound piece of equipment will enhance courtroom security.  "It's very similar to what you see in the airports and federal courthouses around the country," he said.  The machine can cost thousands of dollars - even if it's bought used - but, the county didn't have to pay a dime.  A Deputy U.S. Marshal donated the x-ray machine.  "He had been reading about us wanting to enhance our security system at the courthouse, and said the U.S. government was fixing to replace the x-ray machines they had, and asked if we'd be interested in one and could get it donated," said McKinney.

The machine is less than five years old, and McKinney says it will make the courthouse security tighter than has been previously possible.  "What we are able to do now is actually look in when people come in the courthouse - especially in high profile trials," he said.  "We can inspect all briefcases or anything they bring in the front door of the courthouse."

They will not do away with the use of metal detectors, though.  "It's just a secondary check," he said.  It's just to make sure that nothing was missed that maybe the screener didn't see in the x-ray."  McKinney says the x-ray machine does may seem a little extreme, but that the sheriff's department only wants to keep employees and visitors safe.  "Things can get volatile rather quickly in these trials, so we want to do everything we can in our powers - as sheriff - to make sure they're safe in conducting their business.

The machine requires some special equipment to get it up and running, and when that arrives, the machine will be ready to go.  In order for his department to be able to use the x-ray machine, all of its operators will have to go through special training.  He says he hopes that will be complete within the next two months.

Count on 7News to keep you updated.
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