Faulkner County Sheriff Andy Shock made a request to the Faulkner County Quorum Court Tuesday for the court to appropriate county funds to hire and train 12 additional bailiffs for the Faulkner County Criminal Justice Center opening in May.
Shock said the Faulkner County Sheriffs Department has been tasked with security for the new criminal justice complex that will consolidate Faulkner County circuit courts and provide modern security design standards.
Shock said the need for additional bailiffs is a "last minute thing" because the present administration wasn’t aware of how many sheriff department employees it would require to secure the new 17,500 square foot complex.
Currently, the sheriffs department is able to transport inmates from the Faulkner County Detention Center Unit 1 in a single file line to the original Faulkner County Courthouse about a block away.
With the courthouse built in 1936, Faulkner County Judge Allen Dodson said there is a need for greater security whether the courts move to a new building or not.
The new Faulkner County Criminal Justice Center will be within walking distance of the Faulkner County Detention Center Unit 2, but inmates will have to be transported by van from Unit 1, which often consists of more violent offenders, Shock said.
"Some days we have upwards of 50 [inmates]," Shock said.
Appropriating funds for 12 additional bailiffs would be the "optimum situation" Shock said.
Shock has requested two bailiffs for transport, one driver and one passenger, and another to help unload inmates upon arrival; three in the control room monitoring computer surveillance; one to secure the elevator; one for juvenile inmates, who by law must be kept separate from adult inmates; three to staff the single metal detected entrance and one additional bailiff.
Dodson said he thinks the sheriff has made a good case for additional security, and the Quorum Court will look at his request in terms of what [the county] can afford.
"The process will be to look at the requests to verify if each request is needed, and where we can pull resources," he said.
After Tuesday night’s Quorum Court meeting, where $11,041.94 of the 2014 County General Fund was appropriated, the county has a balance of $193,553.07 left to appropriate while still holding a 12 percent reserve.
Faulkner County Civil Attorney David Hogue, who serves as public information officer for the county, said it would cost about $500,000 to hire and train 12 additional bailiffs.
It will be Hogue’s job to evaluate county resources in the next week to determine where additional resources may be pulled that aren’t as important as court house security, he said.
The Quorum Court has discussed the option to utilize a private security firm instead of the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Department.
Shock said hiring the Sheriff’s Department is "a no brainer" because unlike a private security firm, members of the sheriff’s department are trained law enforcement officers who have the ability to make an arrest if a crime were to happen in the court house.
If the Quorum Court does not appropriate funding for additional bailiffs, Shock said the department would provide security the best [the department] could solely in the complex’s seven courtrooms.
Hogue said the Quorum Court can either fill Shock’s request and fund the additional bailiffs, fund some of the request and have a mixture of sheriff staff and Dodson’s office hiring other security or the Quorum Court will offer no money and the county must utilize the resources it has.
Dodson said while the county is excited to build the building, "we need to step up and make sure it is manned properly."
(Staff writer Michelle Corbet can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1215. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)