Extra Security Steps

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After Friday’s gunfire, courthouses across the nation are taking a look at what needs to be changed to help prevent what happened in Atlanta.

On a daily basis hundreds of people go in and out of the Winnebago County Public Safety building, and police confiscate daily weapons like brass knuckles, guns and knifes. What stops these dangerous items from going any farther is plenty of security.

Charles Jackson, Director of Security for the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department, says, "People can come to the courthouse and feel safe. We're not going to let what happened down there happen here. We'll do anything we can to avoid that situation."

Jackson says what happened in Atlanta was a crime of opportunity. The suspect overpowered a deputy, took her weapon and opened fire in an Atlanta courtroom. What's different in Winnebago County courtrooms is that the bailiffs are not armed.

Jackson goes on to say, "It could be a good thing, but then again something could happen where officers should have a gun. I think we have to take it case by case."

Handcuffs or shackles are also taken case by case. Many times judges are reluctant to being people into the courtroom in shackles. They say it's prejudicial to the defendant.

Jackson states, "My thoughts are the jury knows he's been arrested for this serious crime. I don't think they'd be shocked to see him in shackles. I think judges should look into that. It sure would make our jobs easier."

Ideally Jackson says he would like to have security 24 hours a day seven days a week at the public safety building, but it's just not feasible at the moment.

Chief Judges from our area are scheduled to meet next Friday in Chicago to discuss courthouse security.