What do locked doors and uniformed guards have in common in Payson?
“The sometimes violent conditions around us,” said James Menlove, Gila County manager.
With mass shootings on school campuses, places of worship and other open public venues in the news, both Gila County and the Town of Payson have beefed up security.
The county has locked the doors at its complex off of Highway 260 after a local resident reportedly made “threats” of violence, according to a county employee.
Now, visitors must ring a bell for someone to come and open the door, either at Supervisor Tommie Martin’s office or the community development office next door.
At the courthouse off of Highway 87, crews covered the glass entrance doors in a reflective coating. Now the security guards inside can see who walks up to the doors, while those coming to the court cannot see the guards inside.
“It is the responsibility of county administration to help ensure the safety and security of Gila County employees while they are working in their assigned capacities,” said Menlove. “We also have a responsibility to safeguard the public that come to do business in a county facility.”
At Payson Town Council meetings, “the mayor requested additional security at council meetings,” said Police Chief Ron Tischer.
“When there are contentious or potentially contentious topics being discussed and/or voted on we will have additional security,” said Tischer. “It’s a matter of keeping the council and the public safe.”
During recent council meetings, where top town staff have been fired or retired and other hot topics have come up, there have been more Payson police. Officers removed one audience member who displayed a sign. Tischer believes, “there will be uniformed officers at the meetings until which point they are not needed.”
The chief attends every town council meeting and could provide security, but the design of the room poses challenges.
“Because of the layout of the council chambers it is nearly impossible for one person to observe everything that is going on, so that is another one of the reasons for additional officers at the meetings,” said Tischer.
Bringing in reinforcements isn’t new to Tischer. At his previous job in Wisconsin, “it wasn’t the norm,” except when “the bigger the issue the more people attended the meetings, requiring more officers to attend.”
Like the county, it’s all in the name of safety.
“Security of the employees and public is something we take very seriously and will always be a concern,” said Tischer. “We are working on improving our security measures and plans at Town Hall and other town buildings.”
The county will also continue to improve security.
“We are working towards a long-term solution at the southern door of the (Highway 260) facility that will further increase security and accessibility in the future,” said Menlove.
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