Seeking security at the courthouse

At the county board meeting on Tuesday, March 20, there was discussion about the price of security—and about the importance of peace of mind for employees at the Cook County courthouse.   In light of the December 15, 2011 shootings, the county board agreed to hire consultant Steve Swenson, director of the Center for Judicial and Executive Security of St. Paul, to conduct an assessment of overall courthouse security and make recommendations regarding “strategic gaps” in security. 
Since the shooting, all but the main west door of the courthouse have been locked, and security cameras have been mounted throughout the building.  A security committee was formed and has recommended numerous initiatives to increase safety.
The assessment by Steve Swenson will examine not only the physical layout of the building but policies, procedures, and plans currently in place.  The estimated $5,000 cost will include two visits:  three days on the first visit to inspect the site and conduct interviews and two days on the second visit to go over findings and answer questions from county officials.
In the meantime, the county board authorized the installation of a bullet-resistant glass enclosure outside the county attorney’s office. The glass wall and door will be installed in the alcove outside the county attorney’s office just to the right of the doorway leading into the back of the courtroom.  Visitors to this suite will get buzzed in by staff.
County Attorney Tim Scannell said this is what many other county attorney offices have in place.  The employee office areas in the Public Health & Human Services Department have had a similar secure entrances for years.
Commissioner Sue Hakes made a motion to accept a $29,400 bid, the lesser of two bids, and to pay for the work out of the county’s building fund.  It is “a small price to pay,” she said, adding that it is important for employees to feel safe in their workplace.