The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

October 23, 2012

Clinton County Courthouse safety addressed

By Samantha Pidde
Herald Staff Writer

CLINTON — The Clinton County Courthouse is about to get a little safer.

Issues such as entrances, weapons on the property and personal electronic devices are addressed in a new security policy that the Clinton County Board of Supervisors will vote on next week. Clinton County Justice Coordinator Brian McKenrick, Sheriff Rick Lincoln and Lt. Tom Paarmann presented the courthouse security policy that will be enforced by the sheriff’s office during the board’s meeting Monday.

The security policy is based on policies by other counties. Paarmann and McKenrick agreed that policy could change once they see what situations come up. Chairman Brian Schmidt agreed that the policy is fluid. Paarmann said this would allow them to re-interpret as needed.

A key issue deals with individuals entering the building. During regular public hours, individuals will be subject to screening by the sheriff’s office using a combination of walk-through, handheld and package screening devices. Paarmann said it will be up to the sheriff’s office to establish screening policies. Employees will not be subject to the same screening.

“The reason why everyone wouldn’t be subject to security screening as general policy to improve the flow of people into the courthouse during the high-traffic times so that general members of the public won’t have to sit in line while employees are being screened and everyone else is being screened in,” McKenrick said.

These screening procedures will be put in place once security personnel are hired and trained. Paarmann said it will take some time.

New guidelines are also established to prevent weapons, such as firearms, knives and other items on courthouse property. The sheriff’s office will evaluate requests for authorization to bring weapons on the property on a case-by-case basis. Any unauthorized person who does not have a permit to carry on them may be subject to arrest. Those with a permit shall be required to secure the weapon prior to entering the building.

According to the policy, personal electronic devices will be allowed within the courthouse, outside of the courtrooms.

“People are more and more reliant on technology. We should recognize that in our policy wherever possible,” McKenrick said. “I think it’s important that individuals still be allowed to communicate with one another when they are not in a court proceeding.”

McKenrick felt they should wait until a problem arises before taking away personal electronic devices.

“People have become so dependent upon their cellphones,” Lincoln said. “They’re used for more than just talking. They’re a great source of information for everyone. And it has become one of those tools that everybody is used to having with them almost all the time.”

Lincoln added that it would be inconvenient to those people who walked up to the entrance and then had to go back to their cars to put their phone away. He said they do not want to take possession of them and become responsible for the property.

Cellphones and other devices could only be used if they do not become a nuisance.