The news out of Kaufman County of the shooting death of the county district attorney and his wife has brought a heightened awareness of security of public officials to the forefront in many municipalities.
Navarro County Sheriff Elmer Tanner called county officials together Monday to address the tragedy and to drive home a very serious theme — safety for everyone.
“This is serious business. This is no April Fool’s joke, I assure you of that,” Tanner said of the gathering of elected officials and county department heads, arranged via text messages and phone calls on Sunday afternoon.
Tanner said that while most of the reports coming out of Kaufman were from the media, he acknowledged that from his understanding, the information is generally accurate, and cause for concern.
Tanner briefed county commissioners last week on the results of a courthouse security safety analysis conducted recently, and while he did not discuss specifics publicly, he assured those in attendance Monday that commissioners shared his concerns about the safety of the courthouse, and those who work and visit the county seat on a daily basis.
“We’re working together to improve the security of the courthouse,” he said. “The safety and security of the employees and the citizens we serve in this courthouse is of paramount importance.”
Tanner stressed the need for those who work in the courthouse to be “aware” of what is going on around them — not only at work, but in their personal lives as well.
“Don’t put yourself in a ‘bad’ situation,” he cautioned, such as pulling into the driveway at home with a strange car parked in front of the house.
Tanner also urged courthouse employees to be watching for people or situations that don’t “look right” and report them to the sheriff’s department, so a deputy can check it out.
“You have to take the first step in your own personal security,” he said. “You’ve got to pay more attention.”
Tanner said that while there is a law enforcement presence within the courthouse through the security officer, court bailiffs, and other officers visiting the courthouse for reports and trials, they can’t always be aware of everything taking place in the complex.
“When you see people who look like they don’t ‘fit in’ or they don’t have a purpose here ... we won’t know that if you don’t inform us,” he said.
“All of us can take an active part in providing security for ourselves and for this courthouse,” Tanner added.
County Judge H.M. Davenport Jr. said improving courthouse security is a “work in progress” as Tanner noted.
He said the county would be working to “do what needs to be done” to designate additional funding for security improvements at the courthouse, and working with the Texas Historical Commission to incorporate the measures into planning for the courthouse restoration.
“We’re evolving every day,” Tanner said.
The sheriff encouraged any courthouse employees with questions or concerns to contact him at any time.