Suburban court security issue is shelved

  • Article by: KEVIN DUCHSCHERE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 29, 2012 - 10:36 AM

Plan for metal detectors is sent to Hennepin County committee.

Despite expressing support, Hennepin County commissioners Tuesday delayed acting on interim steps to bolster security at the county's three suburban courtrooms.

The commissioners voted instead to send to committee a recommendation by county administrators to put walk-through metal detectors at the Brooklyn Center and Minnetonka courtrooms and supply security guards at the Edina courtroom with handheld detectors.

Commissioner Jan Callison, whose district contains the Edina and Minnetonka courtrooms, said she was concerned that the plan would close the Edina courtroom. She first wanted to get public feedback on the security package, which could cost up to $775,000.

"I suspect that we have to improve our security. I'm also realistic enough to know that we can't make everything 100 percent secure," Callison said.

County Sheriff Rich Stanek said he was disappointed that the County Board chose to take more time to study the issue. He said that most cases heard in the suburbs are domestic-related, which often lead to violent behavior.

"This is a reasonable, rational solution that protects the public safety of the residents of the county," Stanek said.

The need for courtroom security became a pressing concern in December after a shooting at the Cook County Courthouse in Grand Marais critically wounded a prosecutor and witness. Three weeks later, it gained momentum in Hennepin County when District Judge Lloyd Zimmerman refused to hear any more cases at suburban courtrooms until visitors were screened for weapons.

Zimmerman was to be reassigned to a Minneapolis courthouse with metal detectors.

The county's proposal, presented by County Administrator Richard Johnson, would begin screening measures at the three courtrooms as soon as possible and move cases out of Edina's Southdale service center -- said to be tough to secure because of its design -- to other courtrooms by Sept. 1.

The county then would launch a $150,000 study of permanent security solutions. Johnson said it wouldn't duplicate another study underway on improving court security; that $77,000 report, by the National Center for State Courts, will be finished this spring.

HCMC projects

Also Tuesday, the County Board approved nearly $10 million in Hennepin County Medical Center projects to remodel the pediatric intensive care unit and expand the cancer center.

The projects already had been approved by the Hennepin Healthcare System board, with funding coming from the hospital's operating budget.

The $6.9 million pediatric ICU project, the last intensive care unit to be upgraded at HCMC, will provide nine private rooms for patients and more space for staff and equipment. The $2.95 million expansion of the cancer center will relieve crowded conditions. Construction will begin this summer.

Kevin Duchschere • 612-673-4455

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