New Security Chief Wants Freedom, Safety

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Byline: Tony Gordon Daily Herald Legal Affairs Writer

Trying to ensure the safety of employees and visitors in nearly two dozen Lake County facilities while leaving the buildings as open to the public as possible is a tightrope act.

While it is clear that our sense of safety changed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, it is far less certain just how much of our daily existence must be altered to address that change.

Nowhere locally is that question pondered more than in the office of Eric Lundahl, the new director of security of the Lake County sheriff's office.

Lundahl, in charge of developing and overseeing security procedures for all county operations, says he believes the answer will be found in a leveling of concerns.

"No one wants to live in a society in total lockdown, while at the same time, we have to understand that there are real threats," Lundahl said. "Everything we are doing these days seeks to find a balance between the openness we want in a free society and the security necessary in the times we live in."

The position of security director is new, but Lundahl joined the sheriff's office last year after retiring from the Deerfield Police Department. Before his new appointment, Lundahl worked in an administrative position in the Lake County jail's work release program.

"What we did with Eric is take responsibilities that had been spread out over several individuals and consolidate them," Sheriff Gary Del Re said. "We now address these issues from one place, and we also have a liaison to deal with all the other agencies active in this area."

The county building and courthouse present the largest security dilemmas, Lundahl said, because it is the largest county-operated building and attracts the most visitors.

Security measures already in place - limiting parking in the garage to county employees, requiring all visitors to pass through metal detectors before entering the building and mandating that all county employees wear photo identification while in the building - have not been universally embraced, Lundahl concedes.

"But we believe the measures to be reasonable, necessary and prudent," he said. …