Confrontation prompts Cook County morgue to hire security - FOX 32 News Chicago

Threatening confrontation prompts Cook County morgue to hire security

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Call it a sign of the times. FOX 32 News spotted this armed guard from a private security company manning the front entrance of the medical examiner's office on Chicago's West Side--and he'll soon be joined by others.

FOX 32 has obtained a copy of a bid proposal recently issued by Cook County for armed security guard services at the medical examiner's office. The bid says at least one armed guard will always be present in the morgue during public visiting hours 365 days a year.

Among the guards' duties: stop and question suspicious persons, conduct security patrols, and escort family members to make identifications of bodies. It's that last requirement that apparently prompted the new security.

Cook County Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen Cina confirms there was a tense confrontation several weeks ago when family members of a Chicago shooting victim went to the M.E.'s office to identify the man's body.

"Emotions can run high," Cina says in a statement. "Grief can be converted to anger, and at times, county employees have felt threatened or intimidated. To ensure employee safety, and to maintain an appropriate and respectful atmosphere in the office for others who are present, the determination was made to have security on duty."

Cina was brought in last year as a result of a shakeup by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle after insiders at the morgue leaked pictures showing bodies stacked on top of bodies and other questionable conditions at the facility.

The office takes in nearly 5,000 bodies a year and performs autopsies on half of them. It's unclear how much it will cost to supply the armed guards, but Cina says its insignificant compared to the goal of providing a safe work environment.

Adding armed guards isn't the only security upgrade at the morgue. There's also a new rule limiting the number of people who can identify a body. It used to be groups of four, but now only two will be let in at a time.

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