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Judge Says Pottawattamie County Courthouse Not Safe

New security measures are finally in the planning stages for the Pottawattamie County courthouse, a facility with no metal detectors or X-ray machines.
/ Source: wowt.com

KETV.com

New security measures are finally in the planning stages for the Pottawattamie County courthouse, a facility with no metal detectors or X-ray machines.

The building's lack of security has been an issue for years. An outdated security camera system monitors the building. People walk in and out of the building with no security checks -- a rare sight in a busy courthouse.

"We're still doing business as they did in the 1940s," said Loren Knauss, a member of the Pottawattamie County Board of Supervisors who is leading the effort to update the building's security.

The biggest obstacle is cost. The challenge isn’t new. It becomes a dead issue every time funding is discussed. But officials said now is the time to make a change.

"Unfortunately, we have people that … fly off the handle, and we've had situations in the treasury office no different then they've had in the court system," Knauss said.

He said a price tag hasn't been presented, but he knows it will be costly.

Chief Judge Charles Smith said signs and old cameras aren't enough.

"We order people to come down, and we expect it to be a safe environment. It isn't," Smith said.

Smith recalled presiding over a murder trial when a scuffle broke out in the courtroom. Everyone was removed, and Smith ordered them to be searched before returning.

"All the people that were in the courtroom immediately left the building because they knew they would be searched," Smith said.

Knauss envisioned a renovated lobby with glass walls funneling people to metal detectors.

"It's time to grow up," he said. "It's 2009 -- we're in a different world. It's time to act like it."

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