To an untrained eye, the object resembled an ordinary flashlight; however, fortunately for visitors of the Chester County Justice Center, a Sheriff’s Office employee regarded it with suspicion.
Last week, an alert Chester County Sheriff’s Office security officer working at the lobby checkpoint in the Justice Center decided to take a closer look after viewing its X-ray image. The device turned out to be a flashlight stun gun, an implement that falls within state law’s definition of an “electric or electronic incapacitation device.”
Security screening checkpoints exist at county facilities to ensure that unauthorized persons do not bring weapons and other potentially dangerous and harmful devices inside the facilities.
Sheriff’s Office supervisors said the female owner of the device was cooperative and was otherwise legally entitled to possess the device. She explained that she had it for personal security reasons and showed no signs that she was trying to bring the item into the courthouse to cause anyone harm. But officials said the incident underscores the importance of the security screenings. A stun gun in the hands of an unhinged, disgruntled litigant could initiate a potentially dangerous scenario.
“Our security officers and deputies are trained and reminded to be mentally alert and to take nothing for granted. They are trained to not allow their eyes to fool their minds,” said Chester County Chief Deputy George March. “The device was designed to look harmless, but it wasn’t. Our security officer acted as he was trained to do, suspecting that what he was seeing should be physically inspected. His suspicions were correct.”
In this case, no nefarious motives existed. The device was held temporarily in Sheriff’s Office possession until the woman reclaimed it upon exiting the Justice Center.
Supervisors in the Sheriff’s Office hope the incident will serve as a reminder to visitors to make sure that they aren’t carrying prohibited items into a county facility, a step that will help promote everyone’s safety. An added bonus: It will also reduce the wait time to enter county government buildings.
Chester County Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh said the incident reinforced the pride she has in her staff.
"The security officers and deputies are well-trained and very observant,” Welsh said. “We are fortunate to have them as our first line of defense to provide safety and security to the judges, the employees, and the public."