Security tight for visit by state's highest court
Feb. 15, 2017 at 4 a.m.
A multi-agency security apparatus is ready to ensure Thursday's visit by the Texas Supreme Court is uneventful beyond the Belcher Center stage where the justices will hold court.
Words of advice from all involved: Arrive well before the 9 a.m. gavel.
"Parking can be an issue," LeTourneau Police Department Chief Michael Schultz said with wisdom borne of untold graduations, Belcher Center concerts and other public events in the 2,000-seat venue on his campus.
But, unlike at other events, Schultz said the university is borrowing magnetometers from the county for visitors to walk through before taking seats in the auditorium.
The court travels with its own Department of Public Safety contingent, which Schultz said will be bolstered during the visit by officers from his department, Longview police and county sheriff's deputies.
In addition to arriving at least 45 minutes before the session, the chief and others discouraged people from carrying backpacks or other gear that would have to be searched and scanned.
"They want to make sure they don't bring bags and things, because that can hold up screening," Schultz said. "That'll be unique."
Nadine Schneider, the high court's administrative assistant, indicated the session itself will be less formal than it is in its dedicated courtroom in Austin.
Flash photography is not allowed during Thursday's session. The court requires phones be turned off and not merely set to vibrate.
"People can come and go, as long as they aren't making any ruckus," Schneider said. "Obviously, it's open to the public. There is security — bags will be screened and checked. For the students, we have asked that no backpacks be brought."
Gregg County Sheriff's Office spokesman Josh Tubb declined to reveal details of security plans other than to say the county force will be involved.
"We are going to be allocating deputies specifically for that role," Tubb said, also advocating for crowds to arrive early. "Anytime there's going to be security, you should plan in advance of that. It's always better to arrive early, I can tell you that.
"We're going to do our part to assist the security, not only on the visiting members of the Texas Supreme Court, but also the public."