A new policy is being enacted to ensure that Polk County's courthouses remain secure, according to an announcement from the Sheriff's Office. Sheriff's officials posted a letter to their Facebook announcing the changes, which include new measures requiring courthouse staff meant to align with new "Peace Officer Standards and Training Procedures."
Sheriff Johnny Moats said in a follow-up interview that his deputies in charge of courthouse security in past months returned from additional training, and thus prompted the change.
"We're looking to tighten up our security measures and improve the way we operate," Moats said.
Those who are members of the public coming to Polk County Courthouse No. 1 or No. 2 in Cedartown already are required to screen through metal detectors and x-ray machines, but now court employees will also be required to screen through the front entrances as well.
Additionally, key card access will be limited to courthouse hours on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for employees, and the buildings will be locked down and no one will be allowed to remain inside following that.
Deputies will also be conducting searches of the buildings at the end of the day before they go off-duty to ensure no one is inside. Those who require emergency access to the courthouses during the weekends will now be required to be escorted by a deputy to be able to get into the building as well.
Access over the weekends will only be granted by either Moats or Chief Deputy Jonathan Blackmon.
"These changes have not been made to inconvenience anyone working within the courthouse buildings," the letter stated.
"These changes are strictly to make sure the building is more secure and that no weapons or contraband enter the building when deputies are off duty."
Moats added that as the county works to upgrade courthouse security cameras to a whole new system, that will also benefit courthouse security as well.
"The new security camera project is going to be a big help," he said.
The upgrades previously discussed in committees for the county commission are not to exceed $50,000. The new camera system is internet-based, which will allow those with access to view cameras setup not just in the courthouse, but any building they choose to utilize.
Additionally, they'll need new televisions being purchased separately, and a room is being set aside for a new security station in the courthouses to keep track of camera feeds.
Local residents are already required to go through front doors and have limited access to some areas of the courthouses for security purposes.
The new measures additionally come in response to recent tragic events in Parkland, Florida where 14 high school students and three teachers were shot and killed in a mass shooting, and other recent shootings like that in Sutherland Springs, Texas and Las Vegas, Nevada.
"We don't want to think we're one of those counties that it can't happen here," Moats said. "So we're working to make sure that our deputies are alert and ready for the worst, and part of that is ensuring we have a lot more control over our doors and who is coming into the courthouses."
'These changes have not been made to inconvenience anyone working within the courthouse buildings. These changes are strictly to make sure the building is more secure and that no weapons or contraband enter the building when deputies are off duty.'
Polk County Sheriff's Office
Letter posted to PCSO Facebook site