SYCAMORE – As a former juvenile detective at the DeKalb Police Department, bailiff Jim Anderson sometimes has a hard time remaining silent during criminal trials.
During his 16 years at the DeKalb County Courthouse, Anderson has seen many defendants accept plea agreements and go through trials. His primary responsibilities as bailiff include keeping courtrooms silent, not allowing jurors to speak with anyone during a trial and overseeing the county’s 10 other part-time bailiffs.
Anderson recently spoke with reporter Andrea Azzo about his job.
Azzo: How did you first become a bailiff?
Anderson: I was a DeKalb police officer for 25-plus years. When it got time to retire, I filled out an application to become a bailiff. Judge John Countryman called and asked me to be chief bailiff because, at the time, the former chief bailiff was getting ready to make some changes. The rest is history.
Azzo: What was the transition from being a cop to bailiff like?
Anderson: You see some of the same faces, but you’re an observer rather than a participant. It was something I was going to do temporarily, and here I am 16 years later. I consider myself blessed to be here. I work with some of the finest people DeKalb County has to offer. People who come to the courthouse seldom want to be here. If there’s anything we can do to make it less painful, we will. Everyone is great to work with, all the way down the line.
Azzo: What’s it like watching all the court proceedings take place?
Anderson: A lot of times, I don’t agree with what goes on, but that’s the way the system works. These judges are very good, conscientious people, but the fact remains that they’re human. Believe me, they agonize over these decisions they make. It’s not just a flip of the coin.
Azzo: How do you deal with the outcomes of some cases?
Anderson: As far as outcomes go, you don’t have any control over that. You have to get by and move onto the next one because that’s our system. Lots of cases that involve sex crimes against children are hard. Those are the cases I investigated when I was a police officer. They tell you you have to separate yourself from the case, but I had young kids, so it was real hard to imagine. When a 12-year-old girl stands trial and tells the world what a man did to her, it’s very hard to sit there.
Azzo: How much longer will you be a bailiff?
Anderson: I don’t know, until they chase me out of here. I have three more years, probably.