PASCO – Superior court judges for Benton and Franklin Counties announced at Wednesday’s Franklin County Board of Commissioners meeting that they will be removing armed bailiffs from the courtrooms effective Dec. 1.
Franklin County Sheriff Jim Raymond said for decades, the superior court has employed armed bailiffs to serve as security and provide some additional tasks during court proceedings. Up until three years ago, those bailiffs were commissioned by both the Benton and Franklin County sheriffs, which gave them authority as specially commissioned peace officers. While the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office was conducting routine internal audits, Raymond became concerned that the bailiffs employed by superior court were not meeting the training and proficiency standards of the sheriff’s office. After numerous attempts to get the superior court to comply, including offering the training to them, Raymond made the decision to revoke their commission in Franklin County.
“This decision was not made lightly but it was necessary to mitigate risks to Franklin County until they were brought into compliance,” Raymond said.
As a response to Raymond’s revocation of the bailiffs’ commissions, the judges adopted a new rule, which allowed them to authorize the bailiffs to be armed while in the courtroom. Raymond explained the new rule, along with the bailiffs’ Benton County Sheriff’s Office commission, has been status quo since. Then recently, Benton County Sheriff Tom Croskrey notified the courts he will be revoking the bailiffs’ commissions as well, largely due to the same concerns Raymond had. After that, the judges decided that they will no longer be responsible for security within the courtroom and will return that responsibility back to the two sheriffs.
“I want to be clear; the judges are well within their authority to make this decision and frankly, it is the right decision,” Raymond said.
Raymond said a long-term, permanent solution will go before the Franklin County Board of Commissioners soon. He adds a discussion also needs to be made regarding the future of the superior court and whether it is still Franklin County’s best interest to continue a bi-county relationship.