Dakota County is one step closer to having weapons screening stations at all three of its courthouses.
Before the Aug. 3 installation of a temporary security station at its building in West St. Paul, the county’s Judicial Center in Hastings was the only courthouse where sheriff’s deputies and machines served as safeguards against weapons.
Anyone who’s been to the Hastings building knows the drill: Remove your belt and all phones, keys, wallets and other objects from your pockets and wait your turn to pass through the magnetometer. Budget a few extra minutes and it probably won’t set you behind schedule. Best of all — unlike the TSA — you can keep your shoes on.
The Hastings judicial center, built in 1974 and where criminal cases are tried, first received point-of-entry security in 2006 after requests from judges, said Taud Hoopingarner, the county’s operations management director. Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie and judges from the First Judicial District asked county commissioners earlier this year to help improve security at its West St. Paul and Apple Valley buildings, built in 2002 and 1991, respectively.
Hoopingarner said concerns about the volatile potential for family court proceedings in West St. Paul — and national stories of violence in courtrooms — inspired the additional requests.
A screening station is also due in Apple Valley by the end of November, Hoopingarner said. Both stations will at first be temporary as the county awaits a study on options that may include consolidating court functions to the Apple Valley building. Hoopingarner expects the study to be finished before the second quarter of 2016.
He said a permanent screening station at the West St. Paul building would likely require relocating the entrance to the courts’ lobby and additional construction. If services are consolidated to the Apple Valley building, he said, the existing space allows for a permanent point-of-entry weapons check.
“We’re really just talking about a big piece of furniture,” he said of the additional desk and monitors needed.