Lakewood Judge Patrick Carroll wants better security for his courtroom, the only one in Northeast Ohio that does not have a metal detector and guards greeting people heading to court.
Currently, people are simply wanded before entering. There have been cases where knives have been discovered, the judge said.
The challenge arises because of where the court is located, according to Mayor Mike Summers. It is inside the building that also houses Lakewood City Hall, and in between two floors of government offices open to the public.
“Today, you would never, ever design something like that, but that’s what we have to deal with here,” said Mayor Summers.
The building was designed in 1958 and courthouse security, Summers said, has been a conversation for the last 20 years.
“The challenge for us is to help Judge Carroll to figure a way to secure his court and maintain access by our citizens to its government," Summer said.
Judge Carroll has been on the bench in Lakewood since 1990 and said violent behavior is only increasing. Recently, three men were indicted for threatening to kill him.
At a minimum, he is pushing for a metal detector and guards at the main entrance to the building, which is steps from his courtroom.
“When a person brings a gun into City Hall, there are two ways the gun can be discovered. One is a metal detector at the entrance, the other one is when the person pulls the gun and fires it,” Carroll said.
There are signs at the building’s entrance explicitly banning weapons.
“All I am seeking is an effective enforcement of that warning,” Carroll said.
But Mayor Summers said he wants to explore other options, like sectioning off and securing the court — and find a way to keep City Hall and its offices open to the public.
“He just wants to lock down the whole building. I don’t think we start there. I think we ought to see if we can coexist in an open city hall and a secure court,” Summers said about adding a metal detector to the building entrance. “We may end up there, but I don’t think that's the obvious place to start.”
“Lakewood City Hall itself is badly outdated and makes security a significant challenge,” said City Councilman Dan O’Malley, chair of the public safety committee. They have now created the Lakewood Court Security Advisory Committee to explore options. Judge Carroll gave a presentation to City Council Monday evening.
Once the city and Judge Carroll have decided how to secure the courtroom, they will need to decide how to pay for it — through court fees or the city’s budget.
At the Justice Center in downtown Cleveland, security is similar to that at the airport — passing through metal detectors and taking off your shoes. Cleveland is the only city in Northeast Ohio with metal detectors in City Hall.
Other courts in Northeast Ohio, including Rocky River, Parma, and Cleveland Heights, are in separate buildings and secured with bailiffs and metal detectors at the entrance. A metal detector costs roughly $7,000 and is typically staffed with two guards.