County officials are mapping out the potential impact of additional courthouse security responsibilities required by the state, though they say the requirements should not cost taxpayers since the budget is already set for the year.
The state Supreme Court has ordered that sheriff’s officers guard all civil courtrooms at county court houses across the state, said Ocean County Freeholder Jack Kelly, who met with Ocean County Assignment Judge Vincent Grasso, Sheriff Michael Mastronardy and other officials over the past week.
“We’re looking at what we have to do to come into full compliance” with state court rules, Kelly said.
In all, seven courtrooms – all civil courts – did not always have a sheriff’s officer physically present at all times at the Ocean County Justice Complex. The state recently notified county court systems that it would begin enforcing rules that require sheriff’s officers in all courtrooms regardless of what type of proceedings go on there.
“Mike [Mastronardy] was looking at ways to do this with retired officers, and we just can’t,” said Kelly, explaining that the Supreme Court has required that regular sheriff’s officers must guard the courtrooms.
Freeholder Director John C. Bartlett said the county’s budget has already been set for 2015 and the board does not wish to add new positions in the sheriff’s office.
“This will be difficult,” he said.
According to Kelly, the sheriff’s office is investigating ways to better spread officers around the courthouse, potentially using one supervisor to oversee several entrances to the building instead of posting a separate supervisor at every entrance.
There is no hard deadline on when the county must come into compliance, but Grasso has requested a formal plan be promulgated soon.
“I don’t have anything to report on what it will cost to implement it as we’re just in preliminary discussions,” Kelly said.