August 16—The Cherokee County Courthouse has new, more effective security features that ensure the safety of everyone in the building.
Anyone entering the courthouse must go through a metal detector, whether for legal purposes or to meet with area leaders.
“We are the entry point for the entire courthouse,” Sheriff Jason Chennault said. “When the public comes in, they have to go through. We don’t provide security to city offices, we just scan people passing by to get off at City Hall.”
Deputies Carl Daniels, Dave Butts, or Porter Neel stand guard inside the courthouse lobby, where there is an X-ray inspection system and a metal detection gantry.
“[The X-ray machine] will let you know what’s in someone’s bag. It gives you a general idea of what’s in their bag and if an item is ‘dark’ we look for it to make sure it’s not something we want to get in,” the deputy said. Sheriff James Brown, Supervisor of Security Operations.
Chennault said everyone entering the courthouse must have their belongings checked, and if entrants have a problem with that, they are more than welcome to leave.
“Your bags are searched and no pocket knives, no knives of any kind. At this point we are giving you the option to take them back to your car if you wish,” Brown said.
Signage is posted at various locations around the entrance to inform anyone of what is expected of them before entering the courthouse.
“It’s not just knives, it’s anything you consider a weapon: scissors, a letter opener, anything like that,” Brown said.
The metal detector will let security guards know if someone is carrying a hidden object, or it will alert if someone is wearing a belt, earrings, etc. Brown said the machine will also alert someone who has a metal implant, such as rods, screws, plates or gasket replacements.
“When you show up, you have to empty your pockets in a trash can so they can see everything. Then they’ll bring it to the other side or they’ll run it through the machine,” Brown said.
The entire courthouse has a new and improved security camera system through which Brown and two other sheriff’s office administrators can closely monitor the activities of their offices.
Those in the sheriff’s office couldn’t help but laugh when one of the new cameras caught Brown trying to scare someone last week and ended up falling hard on the wet floor. This video footage was posted on the CCSO’s Facebook page, where others also had a good laugh.
The new security features were part of a renovation project that brought the courthouse into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The total project cost was $1.3 million.
“We have the brand new camera system inside and out and all exterior doors with locking mechanisms,” District 3 Commissioner Clif Hall said.
Chennault said a law was passed about 15 years ago that made each county sheriff responsible for security at each courthouse.
“The law doesn’t say how, we have to do it. It’s just up to the sheriff, and some counties have a system like ours, some go even further than ours, and some counties, all they have, it’s a monitor in the sheriff’s office,” Chennault said.
The sheriff said county commissioners were generous in purchasing all safety equipment with CARES Act funds.
“Our goal is to always have someone up front, looking after the x-ray machine and the tour. If one of them isn’t there for whatever reason, it will come back either to me or to another admin,” Chennault said. said.