Budget cuts lead to changes in courthouse security

By Dan Wells - bio | email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The Hamilton County Clerk of Courts wants to reinvent the way security is administered at the courthouse.

Right now, sheriff's deputies handle keeping courthouse workers and visitors safe.

But budget cuts in every department make covering the courthouse and patrolling county streets more difficult.

Sheriff Simon Leis has laid off or issued layoff notices to 155 of his 1,050 workers since December.

Another 65 positions have gone unfilled to make his budget, which is down $12 million from 2008.

He's also had to pull patrols from some county townships. And just this week, the sheriff announced he plans to use forfeited drug money to keep up some 24 hour patrols.

There is a new idea from the county clerk of courts that could save the taxpayers money, and help the sheriff's budget.

County officials say it's not business as usual at the courthouse, and that could mean the responsibility of keeping this building safe maybe changing.

Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Patricia Clancy says there's no issue with courthouse safety, but there may be another way to provide that service and get more deputies patrolling the streets of Hamilton County.

"What I think is important is having another operation man the courthouse as far as security, man the metal detectors and I believe that we can do that through my proposals and solution," said Clancy.

That proposal and solution is mapped out in an open letter to both Sheriff Simon Leis and county commissioner Greg Hartmann. It involves redirecting the responsibility of courthouse security to the existing courthouse bailiff staff.

According to clerk of courts, the idea is to take these sheriff deputies that man the security post at the courthouse., and put those guys back out on the streets.

"I think what we can do is possibly save six to eight spots where the sheriff could utilize those people out in the communities," said Clancy.

County commissioner Greg Hartmann says thinking outside the box is the only way to operate county government in today's trying economic times.

"I'm glad Patty Clancy is showing leadership on this," Hartmann said. "She kind of grabbed the ball and ran with it, so you know we're trying to do everything we can to enable the sheriff to deliver on public safety, and if we can thought a cooperative effort like this, with the clerk taking over security, if that puts more cops on the street that is a good thing.

Clancy hopes by training existing county personnel with the blessing of county stakeholders, this plan could be replicated at other county facilities to free up even more of the sheriff's well-trained, higher paid personnel.

"These are times that we have never seen before, so we have to look at doing things differently," said Hartmann. "We have to maintain public safety and we have to look at other people chipping in."

FOX19 tried to talk to the sheriff about the issue, but at the time of our call, he had already gone home for the day.