The Rock County Board in December will revisit the idea of having armed security guards at the courthouse.
Brent Sutherland, director of facilities management for the county, told the board at its meeting Thursday a resolution on the topic will resurface next month.
The board’s General Services Committee tabled the idea in February.
For the most part, county leaders say arming security guards is the right move. Who or what group will provide the guards is yet to be determined.
Rock County Sheriff Troy Knudson said adding armed guards to the recent security upgrades at the courthouse would be “another important step forward.”
Global Security Services, the company currently in charge of courthouse safety, has different levels of security packages.
The county’s current three-year agreement with the company provides three unarmed guards stationed at the entrance of the courthouse, but for an additional $13,000 annually, the county could arm them, bumping up the total cost from $75,000 to $88,000
Rock County Sheriff’s Office deputies could be another option for providing armed guards, which would cost the county about $176,000 per year.
At Thursday’s meeting, Sutherland said most of the judges in Rock County are on board with arming security guards and said acts of violence against courthouses have increased since the early 2000s.
Brad Utter, president of Global Security Services, said the company has qualified guards and that 30% of its employees are veterans. He said his company’s guards haven’t had to use lethal force in at least a decade.
“We’re willing to do whatever we need to do to make sure we have an effective security force here,” he said.
Knudson said the issue has been on the table for a long time and that he feels for guards who don’t have firearms to protect themselves or others.
“I do think maybe armed security would help protect them (guards) a little more and potentially the courthouse, but I still think eventually if we decide to go with deputies, it would be an even larger step forward,” he said.
While deploying sheriff’s deputies as courthouse guards would be more expensive, the sheriff said he thinks that’s the route the county should go.
“You have different training if you’re using a contracted provider, different policies, different authority levels,” he said.
Knudson was also worried about communication between outside contractors and law enforcement during an emergency. If the county chooses to arm guards, Knudson said he would help however he could regardless of which option the board chooses.
District 16 supervisor Phil Owens said having armed security in the building would provide law enforcement extra backup in an emergency.
Danette Rynes of District 3 said she would prefer deputies over a private company. She worried about the aftermath if a contracted company were to use deadly force at the courthouse.
“I think we owe our citizens and our employees of the building someone armed down there who has an oath of office to serve and protect, has proper training, has accountability,” she said.
“If we’re going to have someone armed down there, it needs to be someone that’s an officer.”