Once again, judges Frederick A. Schurger and Patrick R. Miller, along with Sheriff Shane Rekeweg, addressed the Adams County Council this week regarding the ongoing issues with security in the courts. The result was an agreement to add an additional security officer.
Schurger told council members that even though there have been several studies done about possible solutions, so far there has been no action.
"A committee was formed to study the issue, and the committee came back with its recommendations, then the whole thing just went on the shelf," said Schurger.
One of the things Schurger said would help the security in both courts is the addition of another full-time security officer. Currently, officer John Whitright is providing security for both courtrooms.
"John is a very good officer, but we've stretched him really thin," said Schurger. "Especially when we're running criminal or domestic cases in both courts."
Schurger stated that under Indiana statute the sheriff's department is responsible for court security and that both judges have been working with Rekeweg to find a solution to this problem.
The trio came to an agreement that the court security officers would be special deputies, falling under the sheriff's insurance for an officer carrying a firearm. It was also decided that security officers would participate in ongoing training to ensure they remain fully trained and up to date on procedures.
Under the new arrangement, the officers would be paid through the sheriff's department rather than the court, moving the budget amount for the current officer out of the circuit court and over to the sheriff's office.
Another way to increase security, according to the group, is to provide a second /audio/visual video feed at the jail. Under the current setup, an inmate can appear in court via video, negating a possible security issue and saving on transportation costs. However with only one video feed, this means only one court at a time can utilize this feature.
Rekeweg said another benefit of a second video feed would be that inmates could have video visitation with family or friends, eliminating the need for a deputy to be present during the visit, freeing the officer to perform other duties.
In an effort to help generate money to cover the costs, the trio suggested a collection agency, Indianapolis-based Eagle Accounts Group, be contracted to recoup outstanding fees imposed by the courts that have gone unpaid, in some cases, almost 20 years, according to Miller.
Council members approved the request for an additional security officer, at approximately $30,000, to be funded out the county general account, and audio/visual equipment, approximately $20,000, to be funded out of the probation user fee account 7-0.