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Town court officer should carry a gun, state says

WARRENSBURG - Town officials are seeking to replace an existing unarmed town court officer with someone who is certified to carry a gun for courtroom duty - and the proposal has sparked controversy.

State Court System officers inspected the court premises and evaluated court operations in March 2009, and they recommended the presence of a trained, armed court officer. The state officers also suggested a dozen of other changes, including searching all who enter the premises with a magnetometer and x-ray screening devices, building a secure holding room for prisoners, and providing an armed escort for the court clerk in her trips to make bank deposits.

Warrensburg Town Justices Richard Nissen and Mindy Fisk forwarded the recommendations to the town board, supporting particularly the concept of an armed officer, town officials said.

Town Supervisor Kevin Geraghty said at a Jan. 4 town board meeting that the town was seeking to hire a new officer with a law enforcement background who was certified to carry a gun. He and board members cited two retired police officers that were seeking the court officer post.

"Our two magistrates asked for an armed officer, he said, "and we need to take direction from them."

Al Smith, the current court officer - an Army veteran -said he'd like to retain his job as court officer, and that to do so, he would obtain the certification that the town board might require for carrying a gun.

Town Court routinely convenes once per week for several hours. The position pays $2,500 per year.

"As the incumbent, I should be given the first opportunity for the position," he said, noting he is a retired U.S. master sergeant with 32 years tenure in the service, which includes 9 years in the military police. "I've been on duty for two and a half years, and I'd like to remain."

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