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Public safety committee discusses courtroom security, city alarm system

The City of Sunnyside Public Safety Committee met Thursday afternoon to discuss security in Sunnyside's courtroom.

No serious incidents have yet disrupted the court, according to Police Chief Ed Radder, but there have been fights and the courtroom is often crowded to capacity on court days. The police and court system would like to alleviate the problem before it becomes more serious.

Discussion started with the possibility of hiring a security firm to provide a presence inside the courtroom. Councilman Nick Paulakis asked about the hours and whether or not the position could be filled by an officer on the current police staff.

Radder said using a police officer would be more expensive as the city would need to pay overtime and benefits. Radder said the judge would actually prefer to have two security officers in the courtroom if possible.

The police are also trying to arrange for a posted version of the docket to reduce the number of people in the courtroom at the same time. Currently people may be waiting for a specific case for hours. A posted docket would allow them to see what time the case is scheduled and come back for that case only. The problem is that Sunnyside's docket tends to run long, and posting it would take more space than they have.

Councilman Jason Raines suggested the court use a smart board with the docket scrolling on it, like in airports. Alternatively, he suggested using a Powerpoint version of the docket plugged into a television in the foyer that could also scroll through the docket.

The committee also discussed whether any security personnel should be armed and what sort of liability the city would have either way.

Also added to the agenda was a discussion of the alarm system currently operated and monitored by the police. Deputy chief Phil Schenk pointed out that the subject has been brought to council seven times and not come up for vote. He said the police need to have a decision on the subject so they can inform the customers of the system.

Radder said there is a misconception among the public that if the police get out of the alarm business then police won't respond to alarms. This is incorrect. Police will still respond to alarms, and response times will be the same, according to Radder.

"We believe we're competing with free enterprise and we shouldn't be," said Schenk. "The MGT study suggests we get out of the (alarm) business."

Paulakis asked if anyone would lose their job if the alarm system was eliminated. Both Radder and Schenk said that would not be the case, that the main dispatcher also monitors the alarm system as an additional duty.

Schenk suggested that response times might improve if the police aren't running the system, because the dispatcher will have fewer duties.

After the meeting, Radder and Schenk conducted a private tour of the dispatch room to give Councilman Paulakis a better understanding of the situation.

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