Security top priority at Mon County Justice Center

MORGANTOWN — Court security officers at the Monongalia County’s Justice Center and Courthouse take their jobs seriously, Gary White, supervisor of court security, said.
“We realize nothing is fool-proof but my officers are diligent,” he said.
Last week, a 61-year-old gunman opened fire at a courthouse in Fayette County, Pa., wounding four people before he was shot and killed by police.
Incidents like that bring home what can happen.
In Morgantown, White said the justice center is typically manned by 10-12 armed courthouse security officers, including at least two at the only public entrance.
Court security officers carry Tasers, pepper spray and firearms, Monongalia County Sheriff Perry Palmer said.
Ultimately, court security falls under the purview of the sheriff’s office. Palmer said all the security officers are trained and certified by the same instructors who train deputies. White said the officers also undergo refresher training every year.
All members of the public who enter the justice center must pass through a metal detector and items they carry are put through an X-ray machine — the same kind used at airports.
There is plenty of opportunity to notice any potential danger before it enters the courthouse. The justice center is equipped with over 100 cameras that cover both the inside and outside. White said every entry has a camera and they are monitored at all times.
White said that an active shooter situation like the recent one in Fayette County is always in the back of his mind and that the key is keeping your guard up.
Hundreds of people pass through the justice center every day on their way to magistrate court, circuit court, the probation office, the prosecutor’s office, family court and more.
“There’s too much going on to let your guard down,” White said.
He said the job is stressful, if you do it right. Palmer said the job isn’t for everyone, and potential officers shadow courthouse security for a few days to see if it’s for them.
Both men said the officers do an excellent job and thankfully, there hasn’t been a major incident.
That doesn’t mean the officers aren’t prepared. White said his staff regularly practices drills for a variety of situations, including active shooters.
“The sheriff provides us with the tools and training needed to do the job; it’s up to each of us to fulfill that duty,” White said.
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