Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Crossing the Border at MCSD

What happens when you want to cross the border at 2200 N. Seminary and enter the McHenry County Government Center? Whose building is it, anyway?

At the main public (west) entrance and at the less-frequently used east entrance to the Government Center are "border" checkpoints. So far, you don't have to show your identification card or state your name, but you are required to pass through electronic scanners and to empty your pockets into plastic trays.

What goes in the trays? Pens, pencils, keys, wallets, purses, coins and all metallic objects that will cause the walk-through scanner alarm to sound an alert. Quite often, a belt buckle will trigger the alarm, requiring the wearer to back up through the scanner, remove the belt and buckle, and pass again through the scanner.

Posted on the front doors is a list of prohibited items: guns, knifes, box cutters, pepper spray, cameras, tape recorders and other items that would pose a threat if used as a weapon inside the courthouse. What happens if you have any of these items with you when you attempt to enter the courthouse?

Aside from guns, you will be asked to take the prohibited item(s) back to your vehicle. If you don't wish to (for example, you are late for court), then the court security officer (CSO) will tell you that you can turn in the item AND that it will not be returned to you.

In the first week in August I followed a woman through the security line and she had a prohibited item. She told the CSO to keep it. He explained that it would not be returned to her and had her deposit it in a box that contained other items which he said had been forfeited that day.

Now, suppose you enter the courthouse and place all pocket items in the plastic tray to be examined by the CSO. He will feel and flex a man's wallet to be sure it contains no stiff item that might be used as a weapon, check the cell phone (to be sure it's not a bomb), click a ballpoint pen (to be sure it's really a pen and not a bomb). Let's also suppose that in addition to those items are some paper items.

Should it matter what those paper items are? Can the CSO prevent a person from carrying any paper items (file folders, notes, business cards) into the courthouse? Should the CSO prevent a person from taking such items into the building?

What if a CSO spots some item that he might recognize as a small political campaign card among the papers? Should he tell the bearer that such printed material is not allowed into the courthouse "because this is Sheriff Nygren's building"?

Does such material become "paraphernalia" just because a CSO declares it to be so? Can a CSO confiscate it without making any written record? Can a CSO who confiscates paper (not remotely close to any prohibited item) refuse to identify himself or refuse to reveal his employee badge number?

This is Woodstock. This is McHenry County. This is not Russia. This is not Mexico. This is not China or Bolivia.

Is a CSO confiscating such paper campaign cards actually committing a crime (theft) by taking such paper from a person entering the courthouse?

If there is a General Order by the Sheriff or the Chief of Court Security to confiscate such material? If I walk in with some political literature of Sheriff Keith Nygren, will it be confiscated?
You had better belief that, as soon as I return to Woodstock, I shall make my first stop the McHenry County Government Center, and I'll just happen to have some "paper" for my campaign with me. If I am prevented from entering a public building or said paper is taken from me, it will take the Woodstock Police about five minutes to get there and there will be a big stink.

The Government Center is not the Sheriff's building. This building belongs to the People. The sheriff is only in charge of security of the building.

10 comments:

Laurie said...

Gus, have you lost your mind? have the little green men attacked your brain? What is with all of the "What if's?" You make up a story about paper being confiscated, then pretend to act outraged as if it actually happened! You say it yourself, any items that are not allowed into the building are to be brought back to your car. Is that too hard to understand? If you do not wish to walk that huge distance back to your car, then you can just throw it away! Is that very hard to understand?

I know, I know..."When I get elected Sheriff, I will remove all of those metal detectors and let people bring anything they want into court!"

Get help quickly before we find you climbing a water tower with a rifle!

Private said...

Gus,
Go to a COOK County Courthouse and the deputies don't give you an option to take it back to your car, they just throw it into a big drum. (Gone forever) Walk in with a prohibited item and you will probably totally miss your court date because they'll have you in cuffs. Now Gus,drive down to the Federal Courts Building and see how you manage with the U.S. Marshal's Service. They are a "REAL" jolly bunch and make the O'Hare TSA personnel look like officer friendly.

BTW Gus, don't forget to complain to the COOK or Federal Marshal's. They'll enjoy a good laugh.

Gus said...

Laurie, a security guard at an entrance has no legal right to prevent a person from entering the courthouse with business cards - no matter what is printed on them.

Gus said...

Private, we're not talking about an item on the prohibited list. The person entering the courthouse had business cards among his personal items.

And, no, no courthouse security officer is going to confiscate any item from me without allowing me first to take it back to my car. That's called Theft, and I'll see that he is prosecuted. Same with the Marshal's service.

Citizens must not allow themselves to be bullied.

Private said...

That attitude has been "asked and answered" in both the Federal and State Courts. ONCE you pass the warning sign, you have violated the published rules. When you see the sign, you make a cognitive decision to enter or not. If someone figures they'll take a chance, they may lose.

As far as campaign literature, I don't know. I know they can prohibit felt markers and adhesive stickers. I don't know if it is to prevent someone from posting election materials or what? Since the Courthouse may be an arm of the election process via the County Clerk as a quasi polling place, electioneering is prohibited by statute. Maybe that is the angle. But then how does Bianchi get away with it? OH, I forgot; they are still waiting for a special prosecutor on that.

Frank said...

Did this really happen? And why are you calling the Woodstock Police? You should be calling the State Police since they have jurisdiction to investigate MCSO.

Gus said...

I already know how the State Police investigates MCSD.

Why call Woodstock PD? Because the courthouse is in Woodstock.

That should make it really, really interesting.

Private said...

Where did anyone get the idea the STATE POLICE have authority over anyone? That is a myth. That's not how it works. NO police agency actually RANKS over another. You may see the ISP investigate when they are called in to do an independent investigation just as the MCSO may investigate when a local PD is involved. The ISP has dual authority within the county as they are not bound by jurisdictional boundaries of city limits. ACTUALLY as Chief Law enforcement officer the Sheriff, statutorily has more authority than other agencies within the county, but as a rule of courtesy it is never exercised.

The COURTHOUSE is policed by the SHERIFF, not WOODSTOCK.

Gus said...

Private, who has jurisdiction over the parking lot at the courthouse?

Private said...

Woodstock.