- Associated Press - Thursday, May 28, 2015

NEW ROADS, La. (AP) - Pointe Coupee Parish officials implemented several changes at the courthouse in New Roads in an effort to improve security.

The Advocate reports (https://bit.ly/1G2f2wV) anyone entering the courthouse, whenever court hearings are taking place, will only be able to do so at the courthouse’s front entrance. Visitors will have to show identification and sign in before they pass through a metal detector manned by a sheriff’s deputy.

The changes come more than a month after state District Court Judge James Best fired off a scathing letter to parish officials for what he called “security breaches” after witnessing several near-violent courtroom outbursts between law enforcement and visitors.

The recent changes, which began Tuesday, are just the beginning of the Police Jury’s effort to upgrade security at the historic courthouse and improve the building’s antiquated facade as well.

Best said Wednesday the increased officer presence and single entry-exit point are satisfying steps toward easing not only his fears, but courthouse employees’ as well.

“I’d rather see that than fighting in the courthouse,” Best said. “The sheriff is going overboard trying to cooperate with us, and the Police Jury has been extremely cooperative as well. It appears to be a money issue but the Police Jury is trying to do what it can now.”

Prior to Tuesday, there were multiple public entrance and exit points at the Pointe Coupee Parish courthouse, and the lone metal detector was located on the second floor, outside of one of the two courtrooms, and it didn’t work.

Best preferred a setup similar to the courthouse in East Baton Rouge Parish where the public is allowed access through a singular point of entry.

In his April 9 letter, Best described how a man got into a fierce argument with another person during a contentious court hearing. He said six law enforcement officers struggled to get the man under control before escorting him out of the courthouse.

Best’s letter references a second incident involving an irate man who had to be wrestled to the ground by police before the man could be subdued and order restored to the court.

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Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com


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