Last week, Ontario Court Justice Gethin Edward appeared before the city’s police services board and raised the issue of security at Brantford’s Queen Street and Wellington Street courthouses.
“To date, (there is) no perimeter security, at least not manned, at the Ontario Court and Superior Court,” Edward told board members, who were certainly already well aware of the issue.
Edward’s comments last week were not the first time he has raised the matter of court security in Brantford. In fact, the Ontario Court judge has been talking about the need for beefed up security since 2008. And he’s not alone, with others in the local legal community raising similar concerns during recent years.
It’s no secret that emotions can run high during criminal and family court proceedings, as Edward pointed out during his presentation to the police services board. “The level of desperation we see on a daily basis (in court) is not decreasing, it’s increasing,” he said.
The judges, lawyers and staff who work in Brantford’s two courthouses deserve to feel safe when they go to work. The good news is that there is something that can be done to make that happen: turn on the metal detectors.
Back in 2007, the Province of Ontario paid more than half a million dollars to install metal detectors in Brantford’s courthouses. Five years later, they remain unused due to staffing issues. Brantford’s police services board approved training for officers to operate the detectors in 2010, but ongoing personnel challenges have kept the machines idle.
Part of the problem is the cost of staffing the detectors on a full-time basis. Because court security is the responsibility of the municipal police force where a courthouse is located, Brantford would be responsible for the cost of staffing the detectors. But this year, the province began to upload the cost of court security, which will be completely funded by the province starting in 2018.
This windfall makes a funding partnership with County of Brant and Six Nations (which had been suggested to staff the metal detectors in the past) unnecessary and turns the spotlight back on the police department.
While he affirmed his commitment to court security, Brantford police Chief Jeff Kellner couldn’t give Edward a firm answer as to when officers would be permanently assigned to the metal detectors.
The machines need to be staffed – and quickly. Court security is an expense that could help prevent a potential future tragedy.
Thanks to the province’s involvement, the City of Brantford has no financial excuse to let the metal detectors sit idle. The city and police must recognize court security as an important public safety issue and find the manpower to back their words.