A county judge in La Crosse has police seething over her order that when they testify in her courtroom, they can’t have their guns nor duty belts with them.
The La Crosse Tribune says Judge Ramona Gonzalez issued the order to three officers who were testifying in the trial of a man charged with 10 crimes.
“It was the first time I’ve ever been asked to disarm,” officer Ethan Purkapile said. “I was definitely concerned because it compromised my ability to protect the DA’s office staff, the jurors, the circuit court staff, Judge Gonzalez and myself.”
The judge argues that her policy, enforced only during jury trials, allows jurors to view police as “witnesses without distraction.”
“And sometimes guns can be a distraction,” she said.
Gonzalez also contends the policy protects jurors who suffered a traumatic experience with a firearm. A gun visible to jurors, she said, could be grounds for an appeal.
“How many court cases have been appealed due to an officer wearing a duty belt with a weapon exposed?” Police Chief Ron Tischer said. “I’ve never heard of one.”
Gonzalez says it’s her policy and she points out that officers aren’t allowed to wear guns in federal courtrooms.
The judge ordered extra security during the trial and the newspaper says sheriff’s deputies providing it were armed.
“You can never have just one person armed,” the city’s police chief said. “When you take away all an officer’s tools, it puts everyone at a significant risk and you’re forcing them to potentially use a higher level of force than they would otherwise be able to use had they had all their equipment available to them.”