EPHRATA – A fist fight between rival gang members inside the Grant County courthouse has commissioners considering increased security measures.
The fight occurred outside of the district court room in January. A privately-contracted security guard and Grant County deputies broke it up after about a minute and a half, according to security guard David Beck.
Beck said all members get screened for weapons before entering the district court. He said that most people do not have a problem being checked, and he frequently has to ask that patrons return certain banned items to their vehicles.
“This is Grant County and just about everybody carries a pocket knife,” he said. He asks that anyone with a knife or pepper spray return the items to their car before entering the courtroom.
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Commissioner Carolann Swartz said that Superior Court only screens patrons during high-profile jury trials. She said the courthouse staff should go through more regular drills to know what to do in the event of a fire, bomb threat or active shooter in the building.
During a meeting with Technology Services and Emergency Management personnel, commissioners received an update on a telephone system that would inform all courthouse employees of emergencies.
The Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) system was installed in courthouse phones earlier this year and can be used to provide a pre-recorded message to all employees with a phone at their desk, said Brent Myrick, Grant County’s server infrastructure manager. The messages could be coded so it would only accurately inform trained personnel or could be in clear language so everyone would know what to do.
Director of Technology Services Gary Baker said the county currently has more than 400 VOIP-enabled phones in the courthouse campus and other county-owned buildings.
Swartz said she thinks emergency personnel responded appropriately to the fight in district court, but says she is concerned that something more serious could happen in the future.
“We all need to know what to do if we have an active shooter or bomb threat in the courthouse,” Swartz said. She said she hoped any telephone warning system would tell staff whether to leave the building or shelter in place.
Commissioner Richard Stevens said courthouse staff should go through a drill in April or May of this year.