Most suburban Cook County
courthouses could be closed on the weekends and earlier in the night
under a proposal being floated by Sheriff Tom Dart to help with
staffing shortages. "It is about using the resources where they are
needed most," said Dart spokesman Steve Patterson.
Locally, that would mean the Rolling Meadows courthouse
would close daily at 6 p.m. instead of sometimes staying open later to
handle court hearings and other events.
It would also mean suburban residents arrested on
Friday or Saturday would likely be shipped to Chicago or south suburban
Markham for their bond hearings instead of going to Rolling Meadows.
In turn, Patterson says the moves would free up about
50 sheriff's officers to work other shifts and other locations that are
now severely short staffed. He said sometimes there might be only one
sheriff's officer manning an entire floor of courtrooms these days
because the agency has not be able to hire new staff in at least three
"It is not a matter of if something is going to happen in a courtroom," Patterson said, "but when."
The move is likely to draw fire from local suburban
police, who would find themselves having to cart prisoners to the South
Side of Chicago or the south suburbs instead of nearby Rolling Meadows
on the weekends.
Yet, the idea seems a long way off from becoming actual policy.
More than likely, the move would take some form of
agreement from no less than four other top county officials: Cook
County Clerk Dorthy Brown, Chief Judge Timothy Evans, State's Attorney
Anita Alvarez and Public Defender Abishi Cunningham.
Dart has made his pitch to county board members, who would have the power to move negotiations along and hammer out a deal.
Patterson said the suburban courthouses in Rolling
Meadows, Skokie, Bridgeview and Maywood were targeted for reductions
because they handle far fewer criminals on the weekends and cases
during the week than the main courthouse in Chicago or the south
suburban one in Markham.
On a typical Saturday, Rolling Meadows courthouse may
have about a dozen alleged offenders awaiting bond hearing with a staff
of officers, clerks and legal officials rivaling that figure.