Senior Superior Court Judge Doug Parsons made the difference, and all those who have to enter one of Sampson’s three courthouses in the near future owe him a debt of gratitude for actions that took county government leaders out of the holding pattern they’ve been stalled in for what seems like years.
Monday night, Parsons delivered an order to the Sampson County Board of Commissioners calling for manned metal detectors at each of the county’s three courthouses by April 1. On the heels of that move, Parsons further ordered that by June 1, operable panic buttons for judges must be installed.
Commissioners acted the same night, unanimously agreeing to carry out Parson’s order and agreeing to discuss the money it would take to do so in the coming weeks.
Parson’s order was the ice-breaker needed to push county commissioners into actions they’ve long talked about but hedged on implementing mostly, they have said, because of the financial implications of improving security that most everyone agrees is sorely lacking in our courthouses. Sheriff Jimmy Thornton has said it will take five additional deputies, as well as needed equipment, to secure the facilities.
While not deliberately pointing fingers at the currently seated board, Parsons was emphatic that it was time for action not words. “We’ve had a problem now for years and the issues transcend several boards — you just so happen to have inherited the problem,” the judge said during his remarks Monday.
“I do this reluctantly. We simply owe it to the citizens of Sampson County to make sure they’re not placed in harms’ way when they come to conduct their legal business.”
We agree with Parsons, an opinion that came, albeit slowly, as we have watched the times we live in grow more and more dangerous and the need for tighter security become not just a wish-list item but a must to help ensure residents’ safety.
While the measures are not a 100 percent guarantee that problems won’t arise and the unimaginable won’t occur, it certainly makes tragic scenarios less possible and offers a level of comfort to court personnel and those transacting court business that has gone lacking for some time.
Commissioners have waded through the security issues for some four years now, trying to find reasonable and fiscally sound solutions to the problem, but they’ve always fallen back on the age-old excuse of tough economic times that simply didn’t lend itself to implementing many of the measures recommended.
We understand their financial dilemma, and we have even, at times, backed their foot-dragging, particularly as it related to hiring more personnel when we felt other options might proof just as effective.
But there comes a time when financial priorities have to be placed in what is viewed as critical areas. Courthouse security would be at the top of that list, and finding the resources to put personnel in place that Thornton says is needed to implement Parsons order is exactly what commissioners should do.
And, thanks to Parsons’ nudge, we believe it’s exactly what they are going to do.