Houston & Peach

Sheriff ends ban on portable electronics at Houston County Courthouse

PERRY -- The ban on all portable electronics at the Houston County Courthouse was short-lived.

Sheriff Cullen Talton ended the two-week-old ban Monday and ordered that the signs prohibiting them come down or be covered up.

“The public, they have the government telling them so many things to do and not to do, and I just felt like this was infringing on their rights too much, and I just decided to take it down,” Talton said. “Nothing against Tommy Spires, because I think his intentions were good. But I think we carried them a little bit too far, so I’m backing up on that.”

Spires, a sheriff’s lieutenant in charge of courthouse security, initiated the building-wide ban May 18 after a man complained about being turned away from taking an MP3 player into a courtroom.

Spires took the action after hearing an earful of complaints about noise disruptions because of the devices and about rude behavior from some members of the public. He also said he was concerned about public safety.

But Talton said “one or two incidents ... wasn’t enough to warrant adding all this on.”

The sheriff said he received “a few calls -- not an overwhelming bunch of calls” about the new policy from constituents.

“Over the weekend, I got to thinking about it,” Talton said. “Then I had one or two people call me, and I said ‘Well, maybe we are infringing on their rights too much.’ Like I say, I’m not blaming Tommy too much for putting it up like that, but it should have been cleared through me before the signs were up.”

Talton said Spires did clear the policy with his supervisor, sheriff’s Maj. Tommy Jackson. But Talton himself never officially signed off on it. Spires could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Talton said he didn’t know about the signs until after they were posted. The signs were removed Monday.

Meanwhile, the long-held policy banning cellphones in the courtrooms stands. Jackson said new signs that state the ban on cellphones and weapons are expected to go up in place of the other signs.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.