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Branch County clerk’s office looking to install ‘panic buttons’

Posted at 4:35 PM, Mar 22, 2016

BRANCH COUNTY, Mich. -- Like most employees, the women at a few Branch County government offices just want to feel safe at work. However that can be hard to do when belligerent customers burst through the doors demanding to be helped. Register of Deeds Nancy Hutchins said this happens more often than not. And sometimes there are no security guards or officers around to control the situation.

"We have no security in this building at all," said Hutchins. "People are getting more aggressive and if you disagree with them they’re, they get angry."

Hutchins said when these scenarios arise, her office, ran by herself and two other women, respond peacefully. And panic buttons may help clerks handle these situations better. Commissioners recently approved the installation of a few panic buttons which will allow clerks to alert officers to trouble instantaneously. They cost about $6,700 for a handful of them and they'll be mounted in their office in the coming weeks.

"It goes to every law enforcement officer in the county," said Hutchins about the buttons. "City Hall is across the street, so if they were there they could come over. If there was security at the courthouse, they could send somebody over there or if there’s an officer in the prosecutors office."

Branch County Clerk Terry Kubasiak said her office typically deals with court cases and protection orders. However when the new concealed pistol license laws went into effect in December 2015, they pushed for  more security.  The law removed gun boards from reviewing paperwork and instead made county clerks the main overseers.

"If you’ve been in our courthouse most of the offices have some type of window or glass or divider between the employee and the applicant," said Kubasiak. "Where in my office, we’re the first office one the left and you walk in we’re going to talk just like we’re talking now and there’s nothing in between."

Kubasiak said people get irate over any type of issue, including CPLs. Her main concern is keeping her staff safe and helping them to feel that way too.

"I have an office staff of five ladies that work for me and it was a concern for all of us that we have some additional security because our security officer also works in the circuit court," said Kubasiak. "If he has to be up in the courtroom for the judge, there may not be security at the desk. And that was some of the issues that we had and why we wanted the additional buttons just to have some extra security."