After three weeks of practicing, Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office personnel will begin a new screening process at the Law and Justice Center starting Monday, Feb. 25.
To increase safety for everyone who uses the Law and Justice Center, there will now be one entrance for the public coming into the building, located at 615 S. 16th Ave., where people will be screened for weapons, which are not allowed in the facility.
The list of prohibited weapons includes:
- Firearms – with or without a permit, and including ammunition or replica firearms
- Sharp objects – knives, scissors, cutting tools or arrows
- Tools – including all construction tools
- Disabling chemicals – mace or pepper spray
- Stun devices – Tasers or stun guns
- Club-like items – Billy clubs, baseball bats or batons
That entrance will be on the southwest side of the building. There, people will be greeted at a window by security, staffed by the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office. Bags will be put through a scanner, and people will walk through a metal detector.
Folks unable to use the stairs will be screened at the building’s north entrance.
The main entrance will be staffed Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. For anyone wishing to come to the Law and Justice Center after hours, on weekends or on holidays, they can push a button at the entrance and someone will come screen them.
Signs have been posted around the building to remind people of these new protocols.
People are encouraged to get to the Law and Justice Center at least 10 minutes early to be screened. Around 8 a.m. is the busiest time at the building, so if possible, the public is also asked to try to find alternate times to visit the facility.
Sheriff Brian Gootkin said the new process is bound to include some growing pains and inconveniences at first.
But, the sheriff said, “Most importantly, it’s the right thing to do.”
Gootkin said the new security measures have been a team effort between the sheriff’s office, the Gallatin County Attorney’s Office and the Gallatin County Commission.
There have been serious security incidents in the building in the past, and this new screening process will hopefully keep similar or worse incidents from happening in the future, the sheriff said.
“We’re being preventative,” Gootkin said.
In addition to the new screening process, additional electronic surveillance has been added throughout the Law and Justice Center.
The Law and Justice Center is the only county courthouse in Montana with this level of security.