Star Tribune: Wounded Cook County prosecutor discusses courthouse security firsthand
As part of Sen. Franken's ongoing fight to increase courthouse security he met with law enforcement and court officials at the Hennepin County Government Center.
As he approached the elevators at the Hennepin County Government Center, Tim Scannell dropped his car keys in a plastic tray, walked through the metal detector, retrieved the keys and dropped them in his pocket.
Much like thousands of others who passed through security screening Wednesday, Scannell went largely unnoticed.
But 3 1/2 months after he was shot and nearly killed in a Grand Marais courthouse by a man he had just successfully prosecuted, the Cook County attorney remains the face of Minnesota's ongoing debate over courthouse security.
Scannell was the authority at a roundtable discussion Wednesday hosted by U.S. Sen. Al Franken, where law enforcement and courts officials said while that Franken's new bill -- which would shift existing security resources to state courts -- wouldn't guarantee public safety, at least it would provide a start.
"This is not isolated. It's on the rise and happens all the time. Obviously, the stakes are incredibly high," Scannell told the assembled sheriffs, judges, court administrators and county commissioners.
"Training to be aware of behaviors has obviously been helpful, but if we could screen for a weapon, that would have made things very different in Cook County," he said.
Franken, a Democrat, touted his Local Courthouse Safety Act, which has bipartisan support and would allow local courts to use excess federal security equipment such as metal detectors, wands and baggage screening machines.
It also would give states access to Department of Homeland Security grants and security training.
Officials pointed out that there are other security challenges in a state where more than 60 percent of county courts are housed in historic structures not built to accommodate modern security technology and where court traffic varies widely among judicial districts.
Grand Marais, where Scannell was shot, typically is a quiet community on the North Shore of Lake Superior and not known for violence.
In the wake of Scannell's shooting, the door to the county attorney's office is kept locked, but the courthouse has not installed metal detectors.
"The legislation raises some questions," Franken said after the meeting. "Does this provide enough resources to make every courtroom secure? How does the state decide to access this grant money? What are our priorities?"