Courthouse to increase security

Mille Lacs County Sheriff Brent Lindgren is hiring four officers to work part-time for his department’s court security and prisoner transport division.

The officers, who are licensed as full-time officers, would also be used to fill in as needed when officers are gone for vacation, sickness, scheduled time off and compensatory time off.

The officers will work a maximum of 2,912 hours per year, and their wages will not exceed $50,000 per fiscal year, Lindgren promised the County Board at the Nov. 5 meeting..

Lindgren said his department is down several bailiffs and noted that the last bailiff he had that was a licensed peace officer, Don Hubbard, has now retired. Hubbard was originally an officer on the Princeton Police Department for many years before migrating to work part time at the sheriff’s department.

Lindgren noted that for some years when he needed to replace a court bailiff, the replacements he hired were not licensed peace officers. In the interest of professionalizing the court security and transport division, he has decided to have only licensed police officers in the job.

Lindgren indicated that the number of shootings across the country is one of the big reasons for this change, and that “scaling back” court security “is no longer palatable.”

One of the commissioners asked Lindgren how Mille Lacs County’s courthouse security compares with other counties in the state. Lindgren answered that it is more like the metro counties now.

Several years ago, the county beefed up its court security with metal detection equipment and a bailiff screening people coming into the area of the courtrooms and county attorney offices.

Another big change came with the April 2010 opening of a justice center building to be the county’s new space for its courtrooms, court administration, county attorney and probation offices. Mille Lacs residents don’t have to look far to think of a hostage-taking situation that ended in a fatality in a courthouse. In June 2008, a disgruntled Little Falls resident, Gordon Wheeler Sr., took hostages at the Morrison County Courthouse during a county board meeting. A state trooper, along with the Morrison County sheriff and the sheriff’s lieutenant, responded and fired weapons at Wheeler, who died later at a hospital from the gunshot wounds.