Monday, January 2, 2017

Boulder County Justice Center security confiscates potentially dangerous items

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Boulder County CO Jan 2 2017 X-ray light illuminated what Boulder County Justice Center court security identified as a grenade passing through the machine, and at first they didn't know whether it was seconds from exploding or not.
It was later deemed safe and now it's displayed in a frame as one of the many keepsakes court security uses as examples of what's banned from entering.
"It's a conversation piece," Court Security Supervisor Sgt. Tom McGrath said.
It's the job of Boulder and Longmont court security every day to ensure that the thousand people who walk through the front doors don't get past them with objects that could be used as weapons, such as a potential detonable device.
Just like at the airport, people must drop their wallets, belts, purses, watches, electronics and bags, and empty their pockets into tubs, then scanned by an X-ray as they walk through a magnetometer, or metal detector.
"I think we have pretty much gotten anything you could possibly think of in here," said Brandon Bussard, a deputy with the court.
They said they've seen the inanimate, such as box cutters, manicure sets, knives, guns, ammunition, silverware, mace, Tasers, CO2 cartridges, throwing stars, darts, a bottle of Fireball whiskey, nunchucks, walking sticks, sex toys and the grenade.
And they've also seen the animate, such as an iguana in June, a mouse, a cat, a Chihuahua, a Pug resisting its owner's tug and a Rottweiler named "Zeus" one recent day in December.
"It's not good for animals to go through that," Bussard said about concealed animals that get sent through the X-ray machine. "That's a lot of radiation."
Month after month, he said, they fill plastic containers with sometimes 30 pounds of confiscated items, which is inventoried and brought to the sheriff's office evidence room to be stored and destroyed. Other times, they tell people to leave the item in their cars, unless it's already illegal to possess.
Some people will try to stow their items in the concrete planters out front, but it's collected soon after and tossed into the bucket of other seized items.
"About 80 percent of the property we tell them to take back or we confiscate and then we'll hold about 20 percent for special circumstances," McGrath said.
Special circumstances are considered with discretion, such as when it's a juror's first day or when somebody stops in for 30 seconds to pay a ticket. Another exception is when off-duty law enforcement officers come in armed — they're simply required to log and have their weapon locked up.
The more curious items have backstories, such as the "awkward" situations that have aroused.
"There was one time that we ran into a penis pump," Bussard said. "We didn't know what it was so we had to go through it and then once we figured out what it was ... yeah. There's times we have to look to find out what we're looking at."
The court security deputies operate in an abundance of caution because, they say, court isn't a happy place for most people who are either there for a criminal case, a divorce, a custody situation or to pay a fine.
"The majority of people who come in here for a specific reason usually come in here upset and they usually leave here more upset," McGrath said.
"Unless somebody is getting married, maybe adopting a child," Bussard added.
Other than disarming potential threats, court security also monitors the courtrooms, handcuffs people following sentences or warrants, responds to urgent situations, watches surveillance cameras, keeps eyes on the most "notorious" offenders who visit frequently and escorts people to the parking lot.
The parking lot, located east of the justice center across Sixth Street, is designated for court visitors and employees, although McGrath said people heading downtown or to the creek find their way into a spot regardless.

"What we find here typically is that as much signage as we will put everywhere, people don't read the signs," McGrath said. "But it says right there, 'Anyone who comes into this facility is subject to search as is their property' ... and they have the right to say no and walk out."
Longmont Times

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