COLUMBUS — Two Mount Vernon officers were recognized for their services at the Ohio Bailiffs & Court Officers Association (OBACOA) Fall training Oct. 24 at the Ohio Supreme Court.
Mount Vernon Municipal Court Security Officer Tom Brown received the highest award — the Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton Award — for his leadership in developing effective court security systems at the municipal court and throughout the state of Ohio. David Lashley, Bailiff and Director of Court Security for Knox County Common Pleas Court, was awarded a Certificate of Special Recognition for his contributions to the OBACOA’s training curriculum.
Brown has served the criminal justice system for over thirty years. He had been a deputy for the Licking County Sheriff’s Department, a security specialist with the Ohio Supreme Court and an investigator for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. As a security specialist, Brown traveled around the state providing comprehensive security assessments and policy recommendations in all Ohio courts to meet Ohio Court Security Standards. After retirement from the Supreme Court, he still works with and offers advice to many judges and court administrators. Brown was hired to municipal court by Judge John Thatcher. Brown’s continuous service has earned him the award nomination by the Leadership of OBACOA, and the votes of members across Ohio.
“It’s nice to be recognized for some of the work I’ve done and know that I’ve helped some of these other courts with putting policies and procedures together,” Brown said.
The OBACOA also acknowledged Lashley for his expertise in self-defense and for developing curriculum and offering training for court officers at the association free of charge. Lashley was the owner of Lashley Training Center, now owned by his son, and is a martial arts trainer.
“Mr. Lashley has been a frequent speaker and trainer for other courts and bailiffs around the State of Ohio. His service to Knox County spans over twenty years, with the past eighteen years as a bailiff for the Court of Common Pleas. We are very grateful for the experience and highly trained professionalism that Mr. Lashley brings to our Court,” Judge Richard Wetzel remarked.
Lashley and Brown met when Brown recruited Lashley to provide training at the Supreme Court. The two officers shared mutual respect and rapport. Brown praised Lashley for his willingness to train officers in Knox County locally and at the state level through the association. “With him willing to come over every time we requested him,” Brown said Lashley was well-liked and well-received among judges and peers.
“I can’t say enough good things about Dave… You don’t get a lot of people willing to come do this,” Brown said.
Lashley said Brown has helped him in his career, and remarked, “It was nice to be recognized, but it was even better that I was there to see Tom receive his award for his dedication and professionalism.”
The Ohio Bailiffs & Court Officers Association has been around since 1976, according to its website. Its members consist of bailiffs, court constables, court security officers, probation officers, police officers, court personnel and other related professionals employed by, or serving the judicial branch of government in the courts of Ohio. The association holds two training conferences annually in spring and fall. Lashley regularly presents and develops a training curriculum for these conferences. According to Brown, each spring training is held at a different location in the state; attendees tour different courts and facilities and observe how others operate. The fall training always happens at the Ohio Supreme Court, where the association performs its union functions and gives awards and recognitions to outstanding members.
The Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton Award that Brown received was established in 2004 as the highest award offered by the OBACOA. The award was founded in recognition of Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton’s leadership in developing a foundation for an effective and efficient court security system in Ohio courts. The award could be given to either an individual or a group.
“Tom has a wealth of experience in court security,” Thatcher commented. “He’s significantly improved security in the Mount Vernon Municipal Court, and he’s always thinking of ways to improve public safety here. He’s also very personable, greeting everyone who comes to court with a smile. We’re lucky to have him working here. The award is well-deserved.”
Brown talked about his work with municipal court with pride.
“When I came here, the Judge asked for suggestions, and they worked and implemented all the standards we’d talked about,” Brown said. “We had a physical security assessment completed about a year ago by the Supreme Court…and we exceeded all the standards.” He explained that policy and procedure are set up to suit each court entity and its facility; what works for one entity might not work for another. However, within each court entity, officers and staff are trained under uniform procedures to react effectively and orderly during a security incident. For example, Brown shared that the officers and personnel at the municipal court participated in a drill to familiarize themselves with everyone’s role and responsibilities in a mass exit situation.
When it comes to security, Brown believes that good communication is the foundation of an effective system. The court posts its security policy on its website, but also implements other ways to communicate to the public about what they can expect when visiting the Court.
“In Knox County, a lot of people don’t even have the internet,” Brown acknowledges, and offers as alternatives, “Our expectations are posted in our elevator; they are posted down in the garage before you get on the elevator. They are posted at our front lobby right on the X-ray machine. So there’s various means that we try to get the point across.”
Both Brown and Lashley emphasized that the security measures and procedures benefit everyone who visits the court. “Once they come to a court, they are in a safe haven here,” said Brown. “We may have some verbal outbursts, victims may react separately, even family members may react, but officers are trained now to be able to handle that. With the court security screening post that we have, we can pretty much rest assured…that individuals don’t have weapons that’s going to harm anybody else or themselves.”
Lashley echoed this sentiment: “The goal is to make sure everyone has a good experience and is safe,” he said.
Brown has worked in all three aspects of the criminal justice system in his thirty-year career—in law enforcement, judiciary, and correctional—with people from all walks of life. He said that he is comfortable with his knowledge because of these experiences and that he enjoys his work.
When asked about what he would like to say to the public, Brown said, “Familiarize yourself to the Court, by going to our website. Or if you have a question or concern, feel free to call. We are public servants, and we are open to suggestions and criticisms as well. If they don’t like the way things are done, we’ll like to be made aware of that so maybe we can take a look at how we can change that.”