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Grand jury urges security for courthouse, body cams for deputies

Renovation and expansion of the Hancock County Courthouse in Bay St. Louis was completed in 2009, serving as a significant milestone in the community's recovery from Hurricane Katrina.
Renovation and expansion of the Hancock County Courthouse in Bay St. Louis was completed in 2009, serving as a significant milestone in the community's recovery from Hurricane Katrina. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com File

A Hancock County grand jury has requested county supervisors “immediately take action” to improve security at the county courthouse.

Security at the courthouse has been an issue since it was built in 2009. The grand jury has been recommending metal detectors and video surveillance equipment for at least five years.

The grand jury also has asked the county and city governments to consider the need for security cameras at public parks and piers.

The recommendations came in the final report of the February term of the Hancock County grand jury. The report was filed Aug. 9 at the end of the panel’s six-month term.

Need for body cameras

The grand jury had several recommendations for the Sheriff’s Office, including that it outfit its deputies with body cameras. Other area police departments have body cameras, except for Diamondhead, which operates under the Sheriff’s Department.

“We are testing six body cameras to see if they will meet our needs,” Chief Deputy Don Bass said. “But the cost of body cameras in general is the problem.

“We need vests, weapons and Tasers, too. And vehicles.”

The Sheriff’s Office just bought five patrol cars to replace aging vehicles and will be buying four more.

“We’re driving cars with 200,000 miles on them,” Bass said.

This grand jury also recommended area law enforcement officers receive continuing education and deliver criminal files to the District Attorney’s Office in a timely manner.

There was again a recommendation that county supervisors work with Harrison and Jackson counties on ways to create a youth detention center.

The grand jury considered 139 criminal cases and returned 75 indictments, including seven recommended for enhanced penalties and four considered habitual offenders.

The grand jury was in session seven days.

Hancock County criminal cases

Cases considered: 139

True bills: 75 cases indicted

No true bills: Insufficient evidence to indict in 33 cases

Cases returned to law enforcement: 27

Cases passed to the August grand jury: 4

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