Yakima County Courthouse security a necessary inconvenience

Security officer Jeremy Reed frequently sees it at the Yakima County Courthouse: lines of people spilling out of the building and sometimes reaching about a half a block to the corner of North Second Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Each person entering the courthouse must place their belongings into plastic trays, remove their belt, surrender purses and bags to a search, and walk through a metal detector.

Long lines are no cause for personnel to rush. “We’re going to be here, do the job,” Reed said one recent afternoon. “It’s still one bag, one person at a time.”

Once, the general public could simply walk into the courthouse without any security checks through entrances at both ends of the building. But that was before increasing violence at government structures, including schools, prompted a nationwide move to heighten security.

Long lines have been increasing in frequency because nearly four years ago, the county stepped up security at the courthouse by reducing public access to a single set of doors facing Second Street and installing security guards and metal detectors.

Everyone is screened, one at a time, before entering. But the intense screening slows access to the building, often clogging the lobby and sidewalk outside when foot traffic into the courthouse is high, especially during jury trials and tax season.

Yakima County Commissioner Kevin Bouchey said a safer courthouse is worth the wait in line because gang-related murder trials and domestic violence cases aren’t going away.

“It’s a changing world and unfortunately we have to do this,” Bouchey said. “It’s a necessity.”

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