FOP: Staffing at Franklin County Courthouse, jail poses risk to officers, public

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Leaders with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge Capital City Lodge #9 say it is time to stop "kicking the can down the road" on safety at the Franklin County Courthouse and jail.

They held a news conference Tuesday on the heels of a story 10TV reported last week about staffing concerns at the courthouse, specifically on the floors that house the juvenile and domestic relations courts. They also pointed out that there at least 50 "dead zone" in the courthouse where their radios do not work.

"I believe the public needs to understand this, that goes in that courthouse, the people that work there have a right to know that, and the deputies have a right to be safe and be able to do their job effectively," said Keith Ferrell, president of the local FOP.

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He says concerns were first raised last year, but they have not yet been addressed.

Major David Oyer, who oversees the security at the courthouse, told 10TV the sheriff's office will be asking for nine additional deputies in the upcoming budget negotiations. Right now, there are just four on those juvenile and domestic relations floors. He wants to see eight at all times the courts are open.

Up until recently, there was only one camera keeping an eye on each of those floors in question in the courthouse. But, last fall, dozens more were installed as part of a security upgrade. Now, there are a total of 12 to 17 per floor.

But Ferrell says, that is not enough.

"The cameras are great, for recording what happens," he said. "So if you're being assaulted, violently assaulted, we'll be able to see who did it. We are in the business of stopping things from happening. It's a great investigative tool for us to use after the fact, but our priority, absolutely, should be preventing you from being assaulted."

The FOP sent a letter to Sheriff Dallas Baldwin back in March, addressing these issues. On Tuesday, similar letters were sent to all three commissioners.

This all comes after the FOP filed a safety grievance with the sheriff's office. That process is now entering arbitration.

10TV reached out for comment from the sheriff's office and commissioners.

The commissioners released this statement: "The commissioners’ office works closely with our partners at the courts and the sheriff’s office to ensure the safety of our staff and visitors. Earlier this year, for instance, the county made security upgrades to the courthouse complex that included 87 new video surveillance cameras, 39 additional panic buttons, and 40 upgraded door locks at a cost of about $750,000. Actual staffing levels are set by the sheriff, however. The commissioners’ budget team will continue to work with the sheriff on these issues, including evaluating any budget requests for the 2020 budget."

Sheriff's spokesman Marc Gofstein said the sheriff's office is still looking into the issue and is not yet ready to comment.