SIOUX CITY | The sheriff’s union and County Board chairman disagree over whether Iowa code allows new courthouse security officers to arrest people. A legal expert calls it a “gray area.”
The security workers are being added to the 620 Douglas St. building as part of a $250,000 security upgrade. The County Board on May 13 voted to outsource the positions rather than have Sheriff’s Office workers handle the job, saying it would save $70,000 a year.
The new workers will run a security station and metal detectors. A committee recommended the upgrades earlier this year. The 1918 building houses county offices and courtrooms. It has never had a comprehensive security system.
The county plans to hire retired law enforcement officers. The County Board approved the job descriptions Tuesday. The county Human Resources Department is handling the hiring.
The Communications Workers of America Local 7177, which represents sheriff’s deputies, said the outsourcing violates their contract and that workers won’t have arrest powers.
During the Tuesday County Board meeting, Chairman George Boykin, of Sioux City, said an attorney for the county has reviewed the proposal and determined it complies with state laws. An opinion was written May 22. It also found the new hires will be able to have firearms.
Boykin also pointed to a portion that cited two parts of Iowa code that give private citizens the power to make arrests: when “a public offense (was) committed or attempted in the person's presence" and "when a felony has been committed and the person has a reasonable ground for believing that the person arrested has committed it."
After the meeting, Boykin said the county's plan will work.
"We can detain, and we can arrest in certain circumstances," Boykin said.
Sheriff’s union President Todd Trobaugh said the new workers won’t be able to make arrests – they will be able to detain people and call in police or deputies to complete the arrest.
"What your attorney is talking about is citizen's arrest," said Trobaugh, a deputy in the department.
Sheriff Dave Drew said the county plan adds another layer of bureaucracy in the arrest process. The Sheriff’s Office is based across the street from the courthouse.
Russell Rigdon, a legal instructor at the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy, reviewed the proposal and said there is "some grey area" in completing arrests. He said non-certified security officers "probably only have the power to detain people.” Certified officers would have to complete the process, he said.
"I can see the issues the sheriff has with the situation," Rigdon said.
Trobaugh said the union may force the county into an arbitration hearing over the changes. A decision will be made after the plan is implemented in July. The union represents about 80 Sheriff’s Office workers.
He said the County Board is pushing through something that won't provide sufficient security.
"We'll probably be in arbitration over the deal. It's a big mistake, and hopefully nobody gets hurt over your decision today," he said.