WASHINGTON, N.C. (WNCT) – In Beaufort County, security changes at the courthouse are causing some controversy over who’s responsible for protecting who.
There are 6 Beaufort County deputies assigned to the courthouse, yet the Sheriff now says they will only protect the courtrooms. So if there’s an incident on the first floor, they’ll have to call Washington Police to respond.
Months ago, a private security group was hired for the courthouse, yet these officers are unarmed and can’t arrest anyone.
Board of Commissioner Chairman Jerry Langley says the Sheriff should protect his courthouse.
“If you look at who’s on the first floor, strictly women. Strictly women. What he’s saying is we have officers in the courthouse and if something happens in the clerk’s office, or in the register of deeds office, call the police, don’t call us. Even though they’re 20, 30 feet away,” Langley said.
Commissioners voted in December to hire a private company to increase security. This came after Sheriff Coleman said not enough funding was allocated for his office to take on the responsibility.
Langley is upset the Sheriff’s Office is now refusing to provide assistance.
“They should be embracing the security who’s now at the entrances of the courthouse which gives them more freedom to be more active in securing the entire courthouse but what they’re trying to do is make sure the security fails and we have to resort back to them after they rejected it,” Langley said.
Sheriff Coleman has defended his stance, saying that law only requires his office to provide bailiffs, not courthouse security. Yet the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association website says departments are responsible for security including “taking the necessary steps to protect citizens and the people who work in and around the county courthouse every day.”
In a statement released last week, Sheriff Coleman said the following: “If there was an emergency that was being reported, an event that there was information that people could be harmed, then the Sheriff’s Office would respond with the Washington Police Department.”
The Sheriff’s Office declined WNCT’s request for an interview.