Today marked the beginning of the new Benton County Courthouse security protocols, as all but the west door facing 1st Avenue will be locked from the outside, and all visitors must pass through a metal screening device to enter the building.

Benton County officials announced the changes last month.

The issue of courthouse security has been the topic of discussion for many years. Deputies on duty say the first morning with the new system was going smoothly, with no complaints from those entering.

A ban on firearms and other weapons in the Benton County Courthouse, as well as other county properties, has been in effect since 2011. An Iowa Supreme Court order issued in 2017 also bans weapons from public areas of buildings that house courtrooms or other court offices. While that order does allow county leaders to ask for an exemption for floors of a courthouse without court facilities, there are court facilities on all three upper levels of the Benton County Courthouse.

See the press release from county officials below:

Benton County is proud to announce that it is taking additional steps to provide enhanced security in its Courthouse. The changes announced today are part of a long process that began nineteen years ago with the introduction of security cameras and alarms and will continue in the future. The changes announced today are part of the County’s effort to continue to provide a Courthouse that is safer for both our employees and our citizens. Effective Monday, April 2, 2018, entry to and from the Benton County Courthouse will be through the West door only. All visitors to the Courthouse will enter and exit through this door, and the North and South doors will be locked and designated as emergency exits only. Upon entry through the West door, Courthouse Security Officers will conduct a routine security check that will involve passing through a non-invasive metal screening doorway for the individual; with purses, bags and other parcels being passed through an x-ray machine. The Security Officers will be Deputy Sheriffs, who will be courteous, helpful and highly trained. This security check will be similar to those utilized by other Eastern Iowa Courthouses. Benton County wants the public to know that the decision to make these changes is being made after several months of study by numerous County Officials, and after consultation with experts in the field of building security. In addition, the steps announced today have been recommended by past Benton County Grand Juries, and coincide with two recent orders by the Iowa Supreme Court. The County understands that new procedures can take some time to adjust to. We hope that all of our citizens will understand the need for this change and will work with us during this transition. Benton County will continue to strive to provide excellent public service in facilities that are safe for all.