Security upgrade delay at local courthouse traced to Ferguson, M - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Security upgrade delay at local courthouse traced to Ferguson, Mo. conflict

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ELKADER (KWWL) -

A federal program is under scrutiny for the so-called "militarization of police" following violent clashes in August between protestors and law enforcement officers in Ferguson, Mo.

The federal 1033 Program outfits local law enforcement agencies with used items from the US Department of Defense at virtually no cost. The local agency does have to pay for shipping fees.

The program, however, was temporarily suspended following the riots in Ferguson, since it was the program that had supplied police there with heavily armored vehicles and other anti-riot gear.

Mike Aschinger, chief deputy with the Clayton County sheriff's office, said the program is much more than just weaponry.

"It's basically like a federal government version of kind of Craigslist here," he said Thursday in his office, gesturing to the site open on his office computer.

His sheriff's office was eyeing a walk-through metal detector available through the 1033 Program, which they planned on installing in the Clayton County courthouse. Aschinger spotted the item right before the program's temporary suspension, and when the program got back up and running, the office had lost its opportunity and the detector was gone. Aschinger said he hopes another one appears soon.

The Clayton County courthouse currently has no metal detector, save for a metal detecting wand used only during high profile cases. It has security cameras, but the sheriff's office wants to tighten safety.

This is especially timely, courthouse bailiff David Tschantz said, in the wake of the Jackson County courthouse shooting last month.

"Tensions run high. Emotions run high on some of the cases," Tschantz said, adding heated conflict following an emotional court proceeding could be made very dangerous if someone were to bring a weapon into the building.

"This is one of those things where it sounds like the militarization piece," Aschinger said. "You automatically hear-- 'Ooo, the military is giving stuff to police'...Well, a lot of this stuff is kind of hand-me-downs, really, and not something that we're becoming them with-- but something that we're helping with the budget with."

The metal detector is valued at $15,000, which Aschinger said is an expense the county could not otherwise easily afford.

Other items in the 1033 Program include computers, first aid kids, refrigerators and tote bags.

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