Security and safety concerns prompted the Rogers County Sheriff’s Office Monday to request commissioners grant the Claremore Police Department key card access into the Rogers County Courthouse.
The request was denied with a 2-1 vote with commissioners Kirt Thacker and Mike Helm opposing the measure.
“Motion to absolutely deny key cards other than through the commissioners and human recourses as deemed necessary,” Thacker said.
Undersheriff John Sappington made the request after discovering CPD was unable to assist deputies on a call for assistance when someone was reported in the building at 2 a.m.
Deputies were on calls in the county and CPD came to the courthouse, only to find they were unable to enter the building, according to Sappington.
“If we need help, they can not get in the building,” Sappington said. “I am trying to get them access.”
“If someone is in here messing around, doing something they should not be doing, there is only certain exits they can come out.” Thacker said. “So when they come out, by then there will be plenty of officers at those exits. If you are going to shoot them, shoot them outside, don’t mess it up in here.”
Although the incident was later determined to be a cleaning crew, which borrowed a key card from a state employee, the issue raised concerns about courthouse security.
“It would be nice for other agencies to have the ability to respond,” Sappington said. An assisting agency would only have access to the hallways, according to Sappington.
“Are you telling me the sheriff’s office can not handle security for the courthouse?” Thacker said.
Sappington said the issue is the number of deputies available and the area they are required to cover after hours.
He recommended the board give the sheriff’s office the ability to control key card access to the building or to at least give assisting law enforcement agencies access.
Commissioner Dan DeLozier asked Sappington if it was the sheriff’s responsibility to provide courthouse security by the order of Oklahoma State Statutes. Sappington responded “yes.”
DeLozier made a motion to allow the sheriff’s office to control key card access into the building, but the motion died due to lack of a second.
The Claremore Fire Department has access to key cards in case of a fire including master key, according to Emergency Management Director Scott Stokes.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol also has access to the building, according to Human Resources Directory Jenny Bentley.
Although no card access has been granted to CPD, Chief Stan Brown issued the following statement to the Claremore Daily Progress.
“I would emphatically state to all. The Claremore Police Department stands by our mission to insure the safety and security in and for all the City of Claremore. This includes our full support of the Rogers County Sheriff’s Office 24 hours per day, seven days per week; and particularly its members assigned to the courthouse security detail. We are available to respond to any request by the Sheriff’s Office to that facility at any time of the day or night. It is true the lack of key card access would hamper our ability to quickly respond inside the building after business hours. I encourage the County Commissioners to work with the Sheriff’s Office to insure that a viable response protocol is established so that we can jointly maximize our efforts to promote safety and security for the patrons of the building and the facility itself.”
After the brief discussion, Thacker asked staff to check into the issue with the cleaning crew and make sure county policy is being followed.
Thacker explained the issue of an employee, state or county, giving someone access to the building is a problem, which should be dealt with accordingly.
The commissioners would be held responsible if an emergency occurs and assisting agencies were not able to get access to the building, according to Thacker.