State to spend $11 million on court security

By Paul Souhrada Associated Press Published:

"The courts must be safe for those who visit and work there if they are to remain places where disputes are settled fairly and impartially," Chief Justice Thomas Moyer said in a news release Thursday.

The security program _ jointly administered by the court and the Ohio Judicial Conference _ includes $1 million to assess security measures in local courthouses statewide and $250,000 to step up training for law enforcement personnel who work in courtroom security and other courtroom personnel, Justice Evelyn Stratton said in an interview.

Next year, $10 million will be divided among the state's 269 local courts for security improvements, she said. The grants, ranging from $15,000 to about $60,000 per court, will be available for equipment such as video monitors, alarms and security barriers.

The $11.25 million was included in the two-year state budget that took effect July 1.

Ohio courts started upgrading security after a survey in the early 1990s to determine risks for employees and the public.

"We were pretty amazed at the results," Stratton said. Judges and other court workers said guns and knives were being brought into courtrooms and reported assaults on witnesses.

As part of the first phase, 25 teams of sheriffs and local law enforcement personnel will be trained to evaluate each court and determine its needs for security in the way of training, personnel and equipment, Stratton said. Each court will receive an evaluation and recommendations listed by priority.

Stratton conceded the money will not cover all the courts' security needs.

"We hope it's seed money that will encourage local officials to develop

a plan and spend some local money," she said.

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