Plain-clothes Jacksonville police officers can no longer carry guns into Duval County Courthouse

Published On: Sep 04 2012 03:42:13 PM EDT
Updated On: Sep 04 2012 06:47:39 PM EDT

Firearms have become the target of controversy at the Duval County Courthouse. A new rule says if you're not wearing a uniform, you cannot carry a gun.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

The Duval County Courthouse has a new firearms policy: no uniform, no gun.

A new rule from Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford went into effect Tuesday that changes how guns are handled by law enforcement officers.

Only uniformed officers can carry weapons inside the courthouse. Off-duty officers, detectives or anyone else not in uniform are required to check their weapons at the front door.

From there, the weapon is put in a lock box and the officer or detective is given a key.

One officer at the courthouse said that as of Tuesday morning, only one officer had to check his weapon at the door, but he said so far the new rule hasn't been an issue. Other members of law enforcement, however, say they aren't happy about the sheriff's new policy.

A memo from Undersheriff Dwain Senterfitt outlined the sheriff's new rule. It reads, in part, "All 'non-uniformed' officers employed by JSO, Local, State or Federal Agencies will be required to secure their firearms, both primary and secondary, in a secure lock box located inside the Pearl Street Employee Entrance.

DOCUMENT:  News Jacksonville Sheriff's Office courthouse firearms policy

No explanation for the new policy was given in the memo.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office told Channel 4 that Rutherford was unavailable for an interview on the subject.

Duval County Clerk of Courts Jim Fuller supports the new policy.

"If I was in there just in civilian clothes and had a gun in my hand, and you were a policeman, and something drastic was happening, you wouldn't know if I was a bad guy or a good guy," Fuller said. "There are people in there that are in uniform that are suppose to take care of the courthouse, are taking care of the courthouse. They don't know who is a detective or who is undercover or whatever."

One option for detectives or off-duty officers is to secure their weapon in the trunk of their car. But those who are against the policy point out that parking downtown is very limited, and for that reason, law enforcement officers and detectives may be walking several blocks without their weapon.

Nelson Cuba, president of the police union, said many of his men and women don't agree with the change.

"They just don't like it. They don't understand it, makes them feel like they're not trusted, even though they're trusted to carry the weapon everywhere else," Cuba said. "Our homicide, our robbery guys, they're putting people in jail that are going to spend a lot of time in prison. So you have friends and family members of these individuals that may not be happy with these officers."

Channel 4 crime analyst and safety expert Ken Jefferson worked for the Sheriff's Office for 24 years.

"I don't necessarily agree with it," Jefferson said. "I think a police officer is a full police officer when he is armed and has the capability of performing all the functions of his job."

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