MONTESANO — The Grays Harbor Superior Court judges issued a supplemental order for security on Tuesday, mandating that weapons screeners and electronic screening take place at the county courthouse in Montesano and the juvenile court at Junction City.
The screeners and metal detectors were set up early Tuesday morning at both locations, but Judge Dave Edwards said the order is necessary to ensure that the weapons screening becomes a permanent fixture, not a flash in the pan instance that is quickly forgotten during tough budget times.
The order does make one critical change to the courthouse. Under the old policy, firearms in particular were only forbidden on the second and third floors of the courthouse. The order specifically bans all firearms and other weapons from all areas of the courthouse, except for law enforcement personnel. Edwards said those with a concealed weapons permit will be able to store their weapon at the Sheriff’s Office.
The order also provides a comprehensive list of prohibited items and items that you can bring into a court room.
The obvious items are banned — handcuff keys, box cutters, meat cleavers, scissors, swords, ammunition, flare guns, spear guns, starter pistols, axes, crowbars and hammers, for example. But the list also includes gun-shaped lighters, cattle prods, toy guns, screwdrivers, chemical drain cleaners, spray paint, golf clubs and skateboards, among the dozens of other items.
So what is allowed? Cigar cutters, common eating utensils — with round-bladed butter-type knives the only kind allowed — crochet needles with hooked tips, nail clippers, eyeglass repair tools, glass bottles containing permitted liquids, safety razors, tools — except screw drivers — that are 7 inches or less in length, hair chopsticks with blunt tips, wrenches and pliers under 7 inches in length, eyelash curlers and tweezers, among others.
Aerosols are also banned except for personal care or toiletries in limited quantities. Chains greater than seven inches in length are also banned unless they are wallet chains.
“Security is not a luxury,” Edwards has continued to affirm.
On March 9, Steven Daniel Kravetz stabbed Deputy Polly Davin, then stabbed Edwards and took Davin’s gun and shot her. Kravetz is currently in jail on $750,000 bail. Both Davin and Edwards are recovering well, but the incident highlighted the need for better courthouse security.
“Without adequate weapons screening equipment operated by trained security personnel, persons are able to freely enter the courthouse with weapons and to launch attacks upon anyone present in the building,” the judges’ order of security states. “Within the past week, seven citizens have refused to report for jury duty due to concerns for safety resulting from lack of adequate security, including weapons screening.”
The order states that there have also been two security breaches since March 9.
There was an incident on March 16 when an attorney saw a man with a very large knife on the seat of his car and he was also spotted in the courthouse. Edwards said the man had a dependency proceeding and was confronted by an attorney and told to leave the courthouse, which he did. Deputies are now investigating the incident.
Another incident happened Monday when a verbal domestic dispute spilled from a court room to outside the courthouse. Deputies had to get involved there, as well.
“The courthouse is not presently a safe place for employees to work or for members of the public to enter,” the court order states. “It is vital that citizens feel safe and secure in seeking access to their courts. The lack of safety and security in accessing and using the courthouse is a continuing emergency which the court must respond to in accordance with the court’s inherent power and in light of the commissioners’ continuing failure to act.”
On Tuesday, County Commissioner Terry Willis signed a contract with Pierce County Security to rent a metal detector and provide contracted weapons screeners.
Without the private security firm, Undersheriff Rick Scott said the judge’s order would have required deputies to perform the screening duties.
The contract states that the county will pay $17.91 per hour for the guards and $26.86 per hour for overtime. The county will also pay $150 per month for a walk-through metal detector and $40 per month for a wand.
Scott said it all could cost the county between $33,000 and $36,000 for the duration for the 90-day contract.