Courthouse Security: August Update

Presiding Judge Laura Inveen and Assistant Presiding Judge Jim Rogers, the Prosecuting Attorneys Office,  the Sheriff’s Department, Metro Police, and King County Facilities management Division appeared before the King County Councilmembers Pete Von Reichbauer and Dave Upthegrove Tuesday, Aug. 28 for an update on Seattle Courthouse Safety. This group has been meeting regularly since June 2017 to address safety and cleanliness issues.County council

Judge Inveen thanked Council for the attention and money to manage the issue. She outlined the progress citing the three-times-a-week pressure washing, Seattle City Hall Park activation, the regular staffing of the 4th Avenue entrance and the commitment to collaboration and involvement by multiple organizations to keep up the momentum.

But she also described three incidents in the past three weeks, including the open use of injected drugs and defecation in the vestibule, as evidence that safety and cleanliness is still not where it needs to be.

“Three steps forward and two steps back,” said Judge Inveen.

Judge Rogers discussed a new court-wide reporting system that should be active soon. It is a single number to call and a single form to fill out – by jurors, court visitors and court staff – to track incidents in the Courthouse vicinity. Judge Rogers also discussed the need for more screeners and machines at the MRJC saying that long lines lead to court delays. Additionally, occasionally witnesses are forced to stand in line with defendants for an extended period of time.

Judge Rogers also asked the Council to consider Court Security requests as a separate budget item. “When these security requests are part of a department budget, that department has other important priorities and security gets pushed to the bottom. I’m just asking that they be brought forward for debate separate from the other budget requests.”

Councilmembers appreciated the update, praised the collaboration and progress and agreed to continue focusing on the issue.

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