New officer assigned to courthouse security

JAMES BEATY | Staff photo Pittsburg County Sheriff Chris Morris, right, stands with his two deputies in charge of security at the Pittsburg County Courthouse: New deputy Don Murray, left, and Jimmy Wilson. Monday marked Murray's first day on the job.

There's a new deputy sheriff in town — and he's stationed at the Pittsburg County Courthouse.

Former Eufaula police chief Don Murray is augmenting the law enforcement contingent stationed at the courthouse in McAlester. Monday marked his first day on the job.

Murray met the Pittsburg County commissioners Monday, when he stopped by for an introduction. He joins Pittsburg County Sheriff's Deputy Jimmy Wilson at the courthouse with officer J.D. Hollaway assisting on a part-time basis.

Pittsburg County Sheriff Chris Morris said he's glad to have a second full-time officer assigned to the courthouse.

"We've been trying for awhile," Morris said. "Jim (Wilson) was having to patrol the courtrooms," he said, referring to keeping an eye on the courtrooms when court is in session. That left Wilson unavailable to fully monitor security cameras or keep an eye on the lobby along with many other tasks that are performed as part of regular courthouse security.

Murray said he's looking forward to working at the courthouse after 12 years with the Eufaula Police Department.

"I'm glad to be back to work," he said. "Being retired is not a good thing for me. I need to be active."

Pittsburg County commissioners approved the new position, which is budgeted by the county through the sheriff's department.

"I'm just glad to get an extra body here — it's long overdue," said Commission Chairman/District 2 Commissioner Kevin Smith.

District 3 Commissioner Ross Selman agreed.

"We've needed one for a long time," Selman said. "I'm glad to get a good man here." Selman said he would like to see more officers added.

"It's a step in the right direction," he said.

The matter of hiring a new officer for the courthouse came up recently when the commissioners were discussing a request by Morris asking them to approve the carrying of concealed weapons by courthouse employees. Morris said he would provide training for participating employees through the sheriff's office, beyond what is required for the carrying of concealed weapons in Oklahoma.

During previous discussions regarding security, District 1 Commissioner Charlie Rogers had said that he would like to see the another officer on duty at the courthouse.

Now, with another officer on duty as of Monday, the decision by the commissioners as to whether they will approve the carrying of concealed weapons by courthouse employees is still pending.

Asked Monday if the hiring of the new deputy for courthouse duty was linked to the question of whether to allow courthouse employees to carry concealed handguns, Smith said the two items were unrelated and that one had nothing to do with the other.

He said commissioners are still gathering information on the concealed carry issue from the Association of County Commissioners of Oklahoma and they are also seeking advice from the county's insurance carrier.

Smith said if the measure is approved, it would likely come with limitations.

"This is for you to protect yourself — not everybody in the courthouse," he said.

Selman said that based on what he's learned, employees would be advised to not use their weapon "if your'e not being shot at."

Any policy remains conjecture at this point, since the commissioners have yet to vote on the matter.

Do they have a timeline for placing the item on their meeting agenda?

Smith said the commissioners have an ACCO conference coming up in early November, when they hope to have more questions answered and see how other county commissioners are reacting to the issue.

"We were trying to see if some others jump on the boat," Smith said. "We don't want to be the Guinea pig."

Although Morris is still awaiting an answer from the commissioners regarding his request to allow courthouse employees to carry concealed weapons, he is glad to see the commissioners approve hiring another law enforcement officer to be stationed full-time at the courthouse.

"We've got a couple of good ones here," Morris said. He said having another deputy on-board will be good for the courthouse employees and for county officials as well as for those coming to the facility to conduct to courthouse business.

"It'll be good for everybody," said Morris.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com

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