Screenings at suburban Hennepin courts start on Monday

The County Board approved interim measures for the suburbs, in preparation for permanent steps likely next year.

Starting next week, visitors to Hennepin County's suburban courtrooms will be screened for weapons -- even if they're just paying a parking ticket.

County officials said on Wednesday that walk-through metal detectors will be ready for use Monday at entrances to the Brookdale court in Brooklyn Center and the Ridgedale court in Minnetonka.

The entry at the Southdale court in Edina can't accommodate a walk-through detector, so visitors there will be screened by guards with handheld devices.

Hennepin County commissioners, prompted by concerns raised by a district judge and a recent shooting in a northeastern Minnesota courtroom, decided last month to impose interim screening measures for suburban courts before settling on a permanent solution next year.

That decision may rest on findings in two upcoming court security reports, one this spring from the National Center for State Courts and another in November by the county administration.

The Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis, where most courtrooms are, has required visitors to go through metal detectors for several years.

The temporary fixes will cost Hennepin County about $600,000 for installation, staffing and maintenance. The county now spends about $1.6 million annually on weapon screening at the Government Center, the Juvenile Justice Center, the Public Safety Facility and the Family Justice Center.

Items barred from the court area include firearms, knives or cutting tools, stun guns, Tasers, protection sprays such as Mace and anything that could injure another person.

Hennepin County's suburban courts typically hear cases related to low-level assaults, domestics, DWIs and traffic and parking violations, out of more than 50,000 cases assigned there every year. No felony cases are heard in the suburban courtrooms, which are guarded by county sheriff's deputies and security guards.

Kevin Duchschere • 612-673-4455

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