Digging Deeper: Courtroom safety - News, Weather and Classifieds for Southern New England

Digging Deeper: Courtroom safety

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Outbursts are not uncommon in Rhode Island's courtrooms.

Sheriffs are trained to deal with disruptions in a way that no one gets hurt.

"There's a lot of raw emotion," Rhode Island Chief Sheriff David DeCesare said.

NBC 10 reviewed two such cases with the chief sheriff and talked about how staffing levels have dropped.

In one outburst Monday, the mother of a shooting victim stood up and shouted at the defendant. She was physically escorted out of the courtroom.

"If you noticed, one of the deputies that was standing by the defendant upon hearing the outburst immediately grabbed the defendant," DeCesare said.

Protecting the defendants in addition to the judges, juries and everyone else in the courtroom means staffing these spaces well.

The sheriff's office consults with the charging police agencies ahead of time, to learn about histories of each case so they can be pro-active.

During another proceeding, the father of 17-year-old victim shouted out in the courtroom during opening arguments.

The judge told him he couldn't return and a deputy walked him out.

"If you notice, this was a different response to the outburst. The individual didn't stand up, didn't make a concerted effort to make an attempt to go beyond the bar towards the defendant," DeCesare said.

The chief sheriff said staffing levels are also down. Right now, there are 166 deputies working across the entire state. DeCesare said that number is down about 40 percent from years past.

"We're working on trying to increase those numbers, but it's tough because funding is always the biggest issue and you'd hate for a tragedy to happen before funding becomes available," DeCesare said.

DeCesare has been advocating for more deputies for quite a while, but in the meantime they manage.

"There could be upwards of 120 to 130 deputies working on any given day," he said.

Just like there are police academies, there are sheriff academies, and they continue to run for when staffing levels are funded to build them up.

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