It’s as easy to take a gun into the Spokane County Courthouse today as it is a legal brief.
Come July 1, that will change.
County commissioners agreed Tuesday to tighten security in the 100-year-old building at 1116 W. Broadway, a measure many say is long overdue.
“It’s really needed,” said Jim Lindow, the county’s chief administrative officer. “It’s just a matter of time before someone gets hurt.”
The plan calls for spending $194,000 to buy metal detectors and other security devices and hire eight unarmed guards. About a quarter of the money is coming from the state.
When the new system is in place next month, people attending court hearings, paying their tax bills or registering to vote at the courthouse will have to pass through metal detectors stationed at two of the first-floor entrances.
Guards will use a machine to scan handbags and briefcases for weapons.
Those going to the courtrooms on the second floor of the Public Safety Building will get the same treatment.
The system will be similar to the one used at the entrance to the concourses at Spokane International Airport.
All other doors to the courthouse will be locked from the outside. People will be able to exit, but not enter, through them.
Guards from Seattle-based Olympic Security Systems Inc. will run the machines. A county deputy will be on call to respond in case someone causes trouble at the checkpoints.
“We’re going to lock it down pretty tight,” said Marshall Farnell, the county’s budget administrator.
Currently, a metal detector is used at the entrance to the courtroom where domestic violence hearings and child custody disputes are held twice a week.
Otherwise, access to county offices and courts is unlimited.
County officials have talked about improving security for several years. Until recently, the system consisted only of red signs on the walls declaring weapons in the courthouse illegal. No one checked to see whether people were carrying guns.
Those discussions took on urgency in March when a man opened fire at the King County Courthouse in Seattle, killing his wife and two others.
Local judges and other officials said the same thing could happen here, and county commissioners stationed four unarmed guards in the courthouse.
County Clerk Tom Fallquist, a vocal proponent of more security, said Tuesday he was pleased by the news.
“We’re all relieved, but this is just the start of something that’s going to take work and take resources,” Fallquist said. “It’s a step that hopefully will prevent some things from happening. Other things could still happen.”
A 1992 U.S. Marshal’s Service report recommended exhaustive security additions at the courthouse, a plan some estimated would cost $1 million.