Panic buttons installed in courthouse

More panic buttons will be installed in the Rock County Courthouse due to action taken by the Rock County Commissioners at their May 5 meeting.

An additional 22 of the small devices will be installed under desks and service counters, all within easy reach by county employees if emergency assistance is needed.

Commissioners approved $4,616.10 for the equipment and installation.

Sheriff Evan Verbrugge supported the idea of installing more panic buttons in the 127-year old building. Currently, the devices are located only in the courts area on the building’s third floor.

He said business at the courthouse often involves money either through paying of fines and fees to discussions about property taxes and assessments.

“People get upset,” Verbrugge said.

One current event was cited prior to the commissioners’ vote.

“After what we (read about) Balaton, you wonder,” said commissioner Stan Williamson.

“Do we have that many crazies out there?”

Williamson referred to the April 29 fatal shooting of a rural Balaton, Minnesota, couple during a robbery. The suspect returned a day later to set the couple’s home on fire. The structure was completely destroyed.

Verbrugge said a recent incident of loud shouting and screaming after a court hearing left some employees feeling uneasy.

A security assessment by Dakota Security Systems of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, determined that 22 panic buttons would provide immediate help throughout the building by just pressing the device.

Rock County contracts with Dakota Security to maintain and test the system monthly. They also forward any alerts to the sheriff’s office when the panic button and tell local officials where in the courthouse the button was pressed.

Verbrugge said his office has been dispatched to the courthouse via Dakota Security “a handful of times” in the eight years he has served as sheriff.

The panic system is meant to protect the people working in the courthouse.

“It’s a peace of mind for them,” said acting chairman Jody Reisch.

Other security measures are being considered, Oldre said.

Additional measures include but are not limited to locking courthouse doors from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m., sweeping the building to make sure no one is inside after hours and restricting access between the courthouse and adjoining museum building.

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