Pierce County will soon modify security screening procedures involving the general public and commissioned law enforcement officers at all three county courthouse facilities. The changes, approved by County Executive Pat McCarthy, go into effect June 16. Under the new rules, visitors will no longer be allowed to leave prohibited items with security officers at screening checkpoints for safekeeping, and law enforcement officers will only be permitted to carry a weapon into a facility if they are there on official business.
“In the County-City Building alone, security staff performs about 900,000 screenings a year, which includes passing 225,000 items through X-ray,” Executive McCarthy said. “The decision to stop holding items for safekeeping will improve the efficiency of the security screening process, resulting in less time spent waiting in line to enter a courthouse.”
The changes apply to all three county courthouse facilities: the County-City Building, Remann Hall and District Court in the Hosmer Building.
Pierce County courthouse visitors pass through a security screening process similar to what is experienced in an airport. Courthouse visitors are required to walk through a magnetometer and have hand-carried items inspected with X-ray screening equipment.
In May alone, security staff prevented 965 knives and other edged weapons from being carried into the County-City Building, according to Mike Dorman, the security manager for county facilities. That’s an average of 53 per day.
Dorman said the screening process will operate efficiently if visitors to county courthouses follow these guidelines:
I. Do not bring prohibited items with you when you visit a Pierce County courthouse. Prohibited items include but are not limited to:
— Firearms and ammunition
— Edged weapons
— Impact weapons
— Explosives/improvised explosive device components
— Flammable liquids
— Chemical agents
— Hazardous Materials
— Handcuffs/handcuff keys
— Electronic self defense devices
–Toy guns or replicas
II. Individuals in possession of a prohibited item will be required to leave the courthouse and return without the item.
III. Security personnel will not hold prohibited items for you while you are in the courthouse and are not responsible for items left in security screening areas.
IV. Plan ahead and arrive early to allow extra time for the security screening process.
V. Be prepared to empty your pockets and place the contents in a container provided for you at the screening checkpoint.
VI Please remove large pieces of jewelry, watches and belts and place them in containers provided at the screening checkpoints before entering the magnetometer. Doing so will save time and prevent having to go through additional screening.
VII. Be prepared to provide purses, briefcases, laptops and laptop cases, backpacks, coats and other hand carried items to court security staff for X-ray screening and additional screening procedures as requested.
VIII. You may be subject to additional screening procedures when the magnetometer sounds an alarm. Please follow the directions of security personnel who will assist you through the rest of the process should this occur.
IX. Before leaving the security screening area, please remember to retrieve all personal possessions.
This change in court security screening procedures does not affect procedures applicable to citizens who possess valid concealed weapons permits.
— COMMISSION LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS —
Effective June 16, the following procedures apply to commissioned law enforcement officers who wish to retain their weapon while in a Pierce County courthouse:
I. All commissioned local, state and federal law enforcement officers who wish to carry their weapon in a Pierce County courthouse shall provide their departmental photo ID to court security staff when entering the courthouse for verification of identity and status as a commissioned law enforcement officer. Officers shall advise court security staff of the purpose of their visit, affirm they are acting in their official capacity and disclose their destination in the courthouse. Pierce County Sheriff’s Department commissioned officers are exempt from this requirement when on duty and acting in an official capacity.
II. For the purpose of this policy a weapon is a firearm, ammunition, knife, impact weapon, electronic device or chemical agent the officer would normally possess as a commissioned law enforcement officer.
III. Official capacity refers to activity that arises from employment as a commissioned law enforcement officer requiring them to enter a Pierce County Courthouse. It does not include jury duty, appearing as a victim, witness, spectator or party to any court proceeding, civil or criminal, in which they are personally involved.