Courthouse cameras unfortunate sign of times

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Upcoming cameras and other recent security measures at LincolnCounty-Brookhaven Government Complex represent an unfortunate butnecessary sign of the times.

Supervisors last week approved the installation of 21 securitycameras in and around the complex. Magnetic door locks to limitaccess to judges’ chambers also are part of the securityupgrade.

Funds for the project are coming from a Department of HomelandSecurity grant.

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Since Sept. 11, 2001, heightened security at courthouses andother sensitive areas has been the focus of many officials aroundthe country.

Judges, though, will tell you terrorism is not the onlymotivating factor behind the need for more security.

Court cases, particularly those involving domestic or childcustody issues, can present the possibility of unexpected violenceagainst trial participants, law enforcement officials and evencourtroom spectators. That has played out in recent years inGeorgia and elsewhere.

Within the last few years in Lincoln County, a metal detectorhas been purchased and is situated to monitor access to thecounty’s two upstairs courtrooms. The detector is manned duringcourt times.

Some intra-courtroom procedural moves, such as positioning thebailiff between the defendant’s table and the judge’s bench, havebeen implemented. And other courthouse-wide changes have beencontemplated.

County officials are correct when they emphasize the need tostrike a balance between the public’s access to places where theyneed to conduct business and the need to make sure those places aresafe and secure.

Some may view the installation of security cameras as a BigBrother-like invasion of privacy while others could contend beingunder a camera’s watchful eye is an acceptable sacrifice for bettersafety. Either way, today’s society makes cameras and othersecurity measures needed – and that’s a sad commentary on the worldin which we live.