The Sheriff’s Office is reassessing how MPs screen visitors entering the Washington County Courthouse after three apparent security breaches in just over two months this summer.

A meeting was held in early September between Sheriff Samuel Romano and President Justice John DiSalle to discuss courthouse security shortly after a man was able to bring a folding knife into the reservation center at the interior of the Family Court Center annex during a weekend check-up.

“Like in law enforcement, we are always trying to polish and train and do better,” Romano said on Wednesday. “We will always re-evaluate and do things as efficiently as possible. If there’s a better way to do it, we’ll do it.

Richard Keeney, 59, of Canton Township, had a knife attached to his belt when he allegedly brought it to security on September 4. The metal detector alerted the duty assistant, who then used a portable wand to scan Keeney, the court said. documents. Keeney told the assistant he had had knee replacement surgery, then he was allowed to continue after being checked.

Keeney later told a reservation center employee that he hid the two-inch folding knife in his belt under his shirt, which he forgot during security, court documents show. The deputies confiscated the knife and returned it to him when he left. He was charged with possession of a dangerous weapon in a courthouse, which was consigned to District Judge Robert Redlinger’s office on Tuesday afternoon.

This incident earlier this month followed two other security situations over the summer.

Reed Marshall Morrow was charged on June 28 with bringing three bags to security and later telling a lawyer that one of them had a bomb detonator inside, which caused evacuation of the courthouse. No explosives were found in Morrow’s bag, but he was charged with terrorist threats causing a building to be evacuated.

On August 20, Register of Wills James Roman was charged with bringing a handgun in his bag to security and charged with possession of a gun in a courthouse. Roman posted on his office Facebook page on August 25, a day after the charge was filed, that he “forgot it was in my bag” and that MPs “hadn’t noticed”. before telling him about the gun and telling him to put it back in his vehicle. Court documents indicated that a deputy noticed the handgun during the x-ray following a shift change over lunch.

There have been notable changes over the past two weeks at the security checkpoint at the building’s only public entrance on West Cherry Avenue, with visitors now required to place their bags and all other personal effects in large trays powered by x-ray. machine. Previously, only bags were scanned, while pocket items such as keys, wallets and cell phones were placed in a transparent plastic bin and inspected by MPs. Visitors should always go through a metal detector.

A note from Romano dated September 16 explaining the new procedure is posted on a table as visitors enter to safety.

Specific details of what Romano and DiSalle discussed at their meeting earlier this month have not been released, although Deputy Chief Tony Andronas said it focused on security. DiSalle could not be reached on Wednesday to comment on what was discussed with the sheriff and other court officials.

Andronas said on Wednesday they had made security adjustments, including purchasing larger trays so personal items could pass through the x-ray machine along with the bags. He said the sheriff’s office also took “remedial” training with federal authorities in July, although he said it was a “refresher course” and not the result of the bomb threat incident at the end of June.

The number of people passing through security in recent months has increased as courthouse functions and court proceedings have expanded after being mostly dormant in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, sheriff’s deputies are also responsible for enforcing DiSalle’s August 4 order requiring everyone in the courthouse to wear face masks in most situations.

“There is no doubt that there have been a lot of cases that have continued this year,” Andronas said of the increased number of visitors. “We definitely have more customers with (lifting) COVID issues. “

The West Cherry Avenue entrance between the Main Courthouse and the Family Court Center Annex is the building’s only public entrance after the South Main Street gates closed last year. It was not known when the main entrance to the courthouse would reopen to the public.

“This side entrance is a very busy entrance,” Andronas said. “Between last year and this year, it’s been busy.


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