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Judge refuses to stand down on policy blocking officers from carrying guns in courtroom

Judge refuses to stand down on policy blocking officers from carrying guns in courtroom

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One Douglas County courtroom remains a gun-free zone for now.

Douglas County District Judge James Gleason, who frustrated police in December by refusing to let two Omaha officers enter his courtroom with their guns, is standing behind his policy of requiring officers to leave their weapons behind.

In an order on Friday, the judge said he is aware of concerns of Omaha police about the security of its officers. He also notes that guns are a required part of their uniform.

But Gleason reiterated his stance that the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office is solely responsible for security at the courthouse. And he wrote that “it is a sad situation if our law enforcement personnel identify themselves not by their presence but rather by the presence of their firearms.”

Gleason wrote that he has had this rule in his courtroom for almost 13 years, and the Dec. 14 hearing was the first time an officer has objected.

"I'm disappointed in the ruling and the unnecessary comment from Judge Gleason," Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said of the decision. "The whole thing seems petty and bizarre to me."

Sgt. John Wells, head of the Omaha police union, promised Friday that the matter was not settled.

“This won’t be the last you hear from us,” Wells said. “He’s on the wrong side of this issue, and he’s going to have to deal with the consequences.

“Clearly, this judge is out of touch with reality.”

The police objection to the rule prompted a Dec. 17 meeting with Gleason, Schmaderer, Presiding Douglas County District Judge Leigh Ann Retelsdorf, Assistant City Attorney Bernard in den Bosch and Douglas County Sheriff’s Capt. Wayne Hudson, who oversees courthouse security. Gleason told them that he would consider their concerns.

Retelsdorf said Friday that Gleason’s policy is unique in the courthouse and not something she agrees with.

“Those are Judge Gleason’s personal opinions,” Retelsdorf said. “We are not in agreement with that. No other judge has that policy.

“I personally under these circumstances would never disarm an officer,” she said.

In an interview last month, Gleason told The World-Herald that he doesn’t allow officers to have guns in his courtroom for two reasons: safety and credibility.

A gun could go off, even accidentally, and harm someone, the judge said. On the credibility issue, he said, he believes a gun can influence jurors by adding an air of credibility or power to an officer who testifies.

The hearing in December that raised the issue was postponed until this past week. Gleason’s order Friday was prompted by one of the officers in that case declining to follow the judge’s rule when the rescheduled hearing was to start on Wednesday. That hearing was postponed once more.

World-Herald staff writer Todd Cooper contributed to this report.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1219,

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