Despite policies enforced by Sheriff George David, all law enforcement personnel are legally able to carry firearms inside of the county courthouse while on official business, even if they are not in uniform and are carrying their weapons concealed, the Beaver Countian can now report.
Standing orders given to deputies by Sheriff George David to disarm officers not in uniform are in contradiction with a binding resolution previously passed by the Beaver County Board of Commissioners.
It has been the standard practice of deputies under David’s tenure to require plain-clothes officers to surrender their firearms at the doors of the courthouse, having their weapons locked in one of the gun boxes located in the front of each public entrance. But Beaver County Resolution 111298-24, adopted by the Board of Commissioners on November 12, 1998, explicitly allows all officers to carry their firearms into the courthouse.
The resolution states that weapons may be carried by any officer who complies with the following conditions: “While carrying a firearm at the court facility, such firearm must be in a secure holster unless being used otherwise in the lawful performance of official duties” – and – “The individual carrying the weapon must be at the court facility for the purpose of performing an official duty and not for personal or unofficial business.”
The resolution goes on to explicitly state that provisions allowing officers to carry firearms into the building “apply with equal force to plain-clothes officers.”
Beaver County Solicitor Joseph Askar confirmed to the Beaver Countian that resolution 111298-24 remains binding law in Beaver County. Solicitor Askar also noted that the county resolution is in step with 18 Pa.C.S. § 913, the state law which regulates the carrying of firearms into courthouses.
Provisions under state law also allow “court officials” to carry their firearms inside of the courthouse under similar conditions.
The resolution passed by Commissioners supersedes any policy established by the Sheriff, meaning officers are legally allowed to walk into the courthouse armed for their own protection and the protection of the public, whether or not they are in uniform.
Controversy surrounding the disarmament policy first came to a head during a bond revocation hearing held for Sheriff George David in April. Pennsylvania State Police Corporals Joseph Olayer and Daniel Mosura, who were the arresting officers in the case against David, arrived to the courthouse dressed in suits for the hearing. Both men were carrying concealed weapons and both men declined to relinquish their weapons when they went through security checkpoints manned by deputies.
There was a possibility at the time that Senior Judge Francis Fornelli may have had David jailed for ratcheting a shotgun in the basement of the courthouse in violation of his bond, and the State Police had concerns about how he, or some of his inner circle of deputies, may react. Those security concerns were made readily apparent by the Pennsylvania State Police, who had over a dozen Troopers present at the courthouse for the hearing.
The Beaver Countian learned of a discussion that purportedly took place between several deputies about whether they could arrest Corporals Olayer and Mosura for entering the courthouse armed while not in uniform. Ultimately those deputies decided against a confrontation with Pennsylvania State Police.
Following an incident last week involving a firearm at the courthouse, with District Attorney Tony Berosh telling the Beaver Countian that a firearm belonging to one of his employees went missing from a gun locker for a period of time, other law enforcement officers once again began expressing concerns about being disarmed at the facility.
Our law enforcement community’s right to carry is clearly protected by county resolution regardless of what they may be wearing.