New security measures in full swing at Clarksville Town Hall

July 9, 2015

The atmosphere was casual at Clarksville Town Hall on a recent court-in-session day.

The tall metal detector and black barrier stationed at the front entrance didn't seem to faze any of the building's visitors, especially regulars like consultant engineer Harold Hart.

"I passed," he said cheerfully as he filed through the detector without setting off any alarms. "It doesn't bother me at all."

It's an attitude that Chief Bailiff Matt Palmer said has been fairly prevalent since June 1, when enforcement began on new security measures that ban deadly weapons from Town Hall. Positive feelings, however, didn't prevail at the Clarksville Town Council meetings leading up to the ban's implementation.

Concerns that the measures violated second amendment rights fueled arguments from citizens like Russell Brooksbank, the Libertarian candidate for the District 2 town council seat.

Despite dissent, Clarksville Town Court Judge Jimmie Guilfoyle signed a court order for the new measures on May 4, but only after making sure there was unanimous consent from council members at an executive session.

Since June 1, a metal detector has been stationed at the Town Hall's main entrance on Tuesdays and Thursdays and in front of the doors to Town Court on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The detectors also are used to scan people entering Town Council meetings.

The detector had caught 80 knives, 15 box cutters, three firearms, four containers of mace, one stun gun, one crack pipe and one pair of brass knuckles as of June 17. Bailiffs have only confiscated the crack pipe and one of the knives and all gun handlers had permits.

"I had no idea the kind of weapons that were being brought in here," said Palmer, who has worked as a Clarksville bailiff for a year. He was hired on full-time after Guilfoyle signed the court order.

Before the ban, Palmer would address the public before court began and say that all weapons should be returned to individual's vehicles.

"Sometimes we'd get people that would get up and leave, but we don't know what they had, though," he said. "I believe that we're a lot more safe especially when you see the numbers of the weapons that have been stopped."

It's not just Palmer who feels safer. Guilfoyle said he's been approached by a "half dozen" members of the public and Town Hall employees who have thanked or congratulated him.

"It's been overwhelmingly positive which is very reassuring," he said. "Every time you do something or make some sort of change, it's usually the vocal minority that speaks out the most."

Guilfoyle said no one has physically approached him to voice their objection since May 4. Opponents may not be talking to Guilfoyle, but they haven't disappeared.

Brooksbank, who publicly spoke out against the new security measures twice, is just as incensed as he was then.

"There are people that are very upset about it and will never forget about it," he said.

Brooksbank said he actually feels less safe since the metal detectors were installed.

"I will have to do business in that building," he said. "So what they're doing is forcing me to do business in that building unprotected."

He'll remain unsafe when he enters the building, he said. That will be soon, as he said he plans on attending the next town council meeting.

"(People who oppose the court order) are not calm," he said. "We are more adamant about getting Judge Guilfoyle out of office."

That might be easier said than done. The eligibility of Guilfoyle's Republican opponent in the upcoming election has been called into question. A law that went into effect July 1 requires the judge of a town court to be an attorney in the state of Indiana, which Republican Town Court judge candidate Tony Singleton is not. Brooksbank is searching for a Libertarian candidate but said he is unsure if he'll find one in time.

Guilfoyle said he initially wondered if he had done the right thing after he heard the reactions to his court order. One occurrence, however, has validated his actions — at least to himself.

Metal detectors caught a gun in the purse of a woman who was on her way to a probation appointment a few weeks ago. In 2008, a woman attempted to shoot her probation officer at the Clark County Government Building.

"That was exactly what I was trying to prevent," Guilfoyle said. "Sometimes those appointments don't go as swimmingly as some of the defendants would like because it is an emotional atmosphere and people's liberty is at stake."


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