DeKalb Courthouse security

DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department Officer Dave Ward monitors the secure entrance at the DeKalb County Courthouse. Departing from the building are county officials, from left, Commissioner William Hartman, attorney James McCanna and Commissioner Don Grogg.

AUBURN — DeKalb County’s new courthouse security system will be receiving national attention, says the man who sold it.

The Isotec system is the first of its kind in Indiana, and the first in the nation with its unique setup, says Mark Barclay of All Secure Group in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The system began operation July 1. It features clear, bullet-resistant glass cubicles for entering and exiting the building.

Unlike other systems, DeKalb County’s is not installed directly at the building’s entrance door. Instead, it offers a vestibule area so people waiting to pass through the scanner can do so indoors.

The design met a request of DeKalb County Commissioners, Barclay said. It required an extra panel of bullet-resistant glass to enclose the waiting area.

“The commissioners wanted it to be light and airy and opened up” along with the indoor vestibule, Barclay said. “It is set up so it didn’t disturb any of the aesthetic in the courthouse.”

The chief purpose of the system is to keep guns and other weapons from entering the courthouse.

Everyone entering the courthouse must enter a glass cubicle, where the Isotec system will scan for weapons or other large metal objects. The person cannot leave the cubicle until a sheriff’s deputy permits it by opening an exit door.

“It has the ability to distinguish certain items and has the ability to detect threats,” Barclay said about the scanner. “It’s smart enough to figure out the metal mass in terms of what should be allowed and what shouldn’t be allowed.”

The system may alert to someone who is wearing steel-toed boots or a large set of keys that might be carried by a maintenance employee.

“If you try to walk in with a gun, it’s going to get you,” Barclay said.

A key to the system is its special polycarbonate glass.

“This glass has what’s called a spalling effect. It’s a one-way, bullet-resistant glass,” Barclay said.

If someone tries to fire a weapon from the vestibule or inside a cubicle, he said, “When they shoot that glass, it will throw shards back at them. For all intents and purposes, it’s probably going to blind them.”

However, police officers can shoot from outside the cubicle and not be injured.

“The polycarbonate allows a bullet from the officer’s side to pass through,” Barclay said.

In contrast, he said, during an incident at another courthouse that was using only an X-ray machine to detect weapons, a shooter killed three police officers before a fourth officer was able to stop the attack.

Several courthouses in Michigan have installed units like DeKalb’s, Barclay said, adding, “it’s starting to become a trend in the country.”

He said the system recently gained the endorsement of the National Sheriff’s Association for use in protecting schools.

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