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Johnson County sheriff defends courthouse security measures

Jessica Fuller • Updated Jan 3, 2018 at 9:16 AM

New security protocols at the Johnson County Courthouse in Mountain City have sparked some backlash among public officials and community members that the county sheriff addressed in an open letter Tuesday. 

Last year, the county formed a Security Committee under Tennessee. The committee is led by Sheriff Mike Reece. Since then, the courthouse has gotten several security upgrades, including a metal detector that everyone must pass through to enter the building. 

Reece said Johnson County Mayor Larry Potter and several county commissioners have been opposed to these changes,  including closing all entries from the public except for the main entrance. They also expressed opposition to hte metal detectors at the entrance to the courthouse.

The changes came after a study by the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy found that the courthouse had improper security measures. 

“They’re taking children away from people, there (are) custody battles in the courthouse, we’re just wanting to make it a safe place and that’s all we’re trying to do,” Reece said Tuesday. “Any time you do have change, people don’t like it.”

The upgrades were partly funded by a one-time Tennessee Administrative Offices of the Court grant program, and the rest of the measures are funded through fines. Reece stressed that taxpayers haven’t and will not pay for any security upgrades to the courthouse.

Weapons were prohibited in the courthouse prior to the new security measures, but Reece said his staff have reported they found nine guns that people have tried to bring into the courthouse in the year that the metal detectors have been in place. 

“We’re not trying to inconvenience anyone, we’re just trying to make it safe,” Reece said.

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