ALBION — A cellphone ban implemented in 2011 at the Noble County Courthouse came more from a concern about weapons than about recording or interruptions, county officials said Monday
During a discussion about security at a proposed courthouse annex, during Monday morning’s Noble County Commissioners meeting, county Prosecutor Jim Mowery and Public Defender Jim Abbs both noted that the cellphone ban was enacted with safety concerns in mind.
Judges also have not wanted cellphones in the building because people are not allowed to record or take photographs in courtrooms, while eliminating cellphones also prevents distractions from ringtones and alerts during court hearings.
A cellphone ban has become a controversial issue at the DeKalb County Courthouse in Auburn, which recently installed new secure entrances.
In a letter to the editor published last week, David Powers of the Concerned Citizens of DeKalb County contended that the cellphone ban violates Indiana’s public access law.
Mowery and Abbs recounted Monday that when Noble County banned mobile phones, there were stories of functioning small-caliber firearms being disguised within cellphones.
Former Sheriff Doug Harp said in March 2011 that cellphones had been used as a cover for hidden weapons, explosives and other contraband, according to a KPC Media Group news report from the time.
Noble County Commissioner Justin Stump, who used to work security at the Noble County Courthouse front door, remembered the concern about hidden weapons. Older cell phones were thicker, he noted, and potentially could be used to hide firearms or other materials.
Newer cellphones are smaller, thinner and many are molded as a single body that can’t be opened, unlike older phones where a battery door or back plate generally could be removed.
Noble County has both a metal detector and an X-ray scanner in its only public entrance. The front door of the building in Albion usually is staffed by two courthouse security officers during the day.