Woodbury County Sheriff Dave Drew is happy to see the order issued Tuesday by the Iowa Supreme Court that bans weapons in courthouses across the state.
Drew is in charge of security at the county courthouse buildings in Sioux City, which is one of ten courthouses in the state with an airport-like metal detector at the entrance.
“What we want to do is make sure that our jurors feel safe in the courthouse. And that is free to move around in the building, not only in the court,” Drew says. “So, you don’t want to have jurors be hesitant to be a part of a process that is important for justice to prevail.”
Sheriff Drew says the ruling allows them to expand security to areas where Juvenile Court and the County Treasurer are located. He says security there has been a concern. “We have discussed up in juvenile court — where at times where things can get very contentious when removing children — we have looked at having rovers and things like that. But it’s nice that this ruling is there,” Drew says. The order does not affect law officers.
Woodbury County District Court Administrator, Leesa McNeil, says court staff and the public can now be reassured about their safety when they are in the facility.
“I think it should be reassuring to the public to know that the court is taking that responsibility seriously and that efforts that are in place to provide security will continue to stay in place,” McNeil says. “And that we have the authority to put efforts into place to ensure and that court areas are safe places to be.”
The order requires the chief judge in each judicial district to work with local officials to carry out the order in each of Iowa’s 99 counties, but does not specify how weapons would be detected. The order from the Chief Justice says the security efforts put in place to protect the courts were too inconsistent across the state to make everyone safe and there needs to be a uniform policy. The order says 27 Iowa counties have no known courthouse weapons ban.
(Reporting by Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City)