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Missoula County tightens security at courthouse; library to follow

A month after announcing possible changes, Missoula County inked an agreement to provide a new layer of security at the courthouse, and it will explore other security protocols in the months ahead.

The Missoula Public Library will follow as it opens after the pandemic eases.

“The cost of this contract is billed on an hourly rate for either armed or unarmed security,” said Chris Lounsbury, the county’s chief administrative officer. “We did get both prices depending on where the county moves in the future, but also because the library was interested in both models.”

For now, Phoenix Protective Services out of Spokane will provide unarmed private security personnel at both the courthouse and the library.

However, the officers will be licensed to carry arms to address any escalating concerns over safety and security. The courthouse houses five district court judges, two justice court judges and several standing masters.

Phoenix Protective Services also provides security for the federal courthouse on Broadway.

“Phoenix took the opportunity to come over to Missoula to review our courthouse and walk through the building,” Lounsbury said. “They got to know and understand the needs we have for the courthouse as we move not only for today but towards the future.”

Under the contract, Phoenix will provide two security officers in the courthouse. One will be stationed at a security desk installed in the historic section of the building, located between several justice court courtrooms.

“That person will be responsible for monitoring the security cameras and features in the courthouse,” Lounsbury said. “Then they’ll have a roving staff member throughout the building moving between courtroom areas – the clerk and recorder, treasure’s office, and clerk and district court.”

As part of the contract, Lounsbury said the officers will be equipped with radios tied directly to the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office. They’ll also be asked to patrol area’s outside the courthouse, where the county has experienced “some issues with security.”

County officials haven’t noted any single security incident that led them to tighten oversight of the facility, though they’ve been exploring their options for several months.

“We’re looking at this is a layered approach to security in the courthouse,” Lounsbury said. “We try to spread out the level of need we have in each given circumstance and find the balance for that.”

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