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Keeping the peace on judgment day.

Violence in this country is on the rise. Murders are reported every day in major metropolitan newspapers. The scourge of drugs is visible everywhere in the country from the smallest communities to the largest cities. Judges and other court staff are not immune to the rising level of violence in society.

More and more cases that used to be considered the responsibility of local courts are being brought into the federal court system. The Administrative Office of the United States Courts reported that in 1992 criminal appeals cases rose 12 percent with drug-related cases accounting for 57 percent of that total. Drug cases continue to be a major factor in the increase in criminal filings.

More than 27 percent of all pending criminal cases involve drug offenses. In some districts, such as Southern Florida, it is unusual to see a case go to trial that does not involve drug trafficking. These cases typically include multidefendant trials because they tend to involve broad enterprises with many participants.

The U.S. Marshals Service has always maintained that drug-related trials require a higher level of security and are more complex than other categories of criminal offenses. The cases are extremely labor intensive and require additional staffing and resources to ensure the safety of the judicial process and its participants.

As the work load of the courts has increased, so have the threats to judges, attorneys, and other court personnel. In 1992, 242 threats were reported against members of the judiciary. How successful has the Marshals Service been in protecting the judiciary? Two federal judges were killed in the last five years--one by an armed assailant and one by a bomb delivered in the mail. Both judges were killed at their homes. No judge has ever been injured while under protective detail.

The Marshals service has implemented many measures to ensure that courthouses are safe places to work and hold trials. The security program for an individual building or court location starts with a security survey for an existing building or a security design for a new facility. A properly designed security program is based on an evaluation of three elements: criticality, vulnerability, and threat. Security specialists and deputy marshals with training in court security assess court building security. The U.S. Courts Design Guide discusses a basic level of security systems and provides an explanation of upgrades that may be necessary. To meet the specific security needs of each courthouse, discussions are held with court staff and the local Marshal to determine which areas are critical. An on-site review reveals highly vulnerable areas. Threat information is developed locally and within the Threat Analysis Division of the Marshals Service's headquarters.

An effective security program depends on the proper integration of security personnel and equipment. Both components must be available in the proper quantity and quality or the system will be ineffective. One of the biggest traps security designers can fall into, for instance, is to assume someone is watching all the monitors they install in control rooms.

The proper selection and application of security equipment is critical. The security design must ensure that the system is easy to understand and operate. In a crisis, even a well-trained security officer can be confused. System design should work to prevent operational problems.

The Marshals Service recognizes the need to have a highly professional security force. Court security officers, which supplement the local Marshals staff, must have police training and three years of experience as a police officer. Although this is a contract force, it works directly with local Marshals Service personnel.

The court security officers' main functions are securing the court building or court space in a multitenant federal building, responding to duress alarm situations, and maintaining order in the court areas. These officers are deputized and have full police authority while on duty. To operate various types of security equipment, individuals are given additional training.

Zones. In any well-designed security system, a zone is established around the asset to be protected, and controls are put in place. The federal court system does this by funneling all personnel through a security screening point. Individuals are screened for weapons, cameras, tape recorders, and other prohibited items. Walk-through metal detectors and X-ray systems, similar to those found in airports, are installed at these lobby screening posts.

Visibility. Architects typically do not like the appearance of CCTV cameras and other security devices. They want this equipment to be installed in an inconspicuous manner. In some areas it is appropriate that security be obvious. The entry screening post is one of these areas. On occasion building managers or judges have said that the equipment detracts from the beauty of the lobby. They suggest that the machinery be placed in a room off the lobby.

Low visibility would destroy part of the effectiveness of the screening apparatus. Security officers often report that individuals enter the building, see the screening equipment, and leave. This equipment establishes a security atmosphere as the building is accessed.

Courthouses and federal buildings are open to the public. They have even sometimes been used by homeless people looking for a place to get out of the weather and use toilet facilities. Unfortunately, some of these individuals are mentally disturbed or petty criminals. Employees in an Indianapolis courthouse, for instance, used to complain that they felt threatened by vagrants in the bathrooms. After the screening post was established, the problem disappeared. The mere presence of security devices served as a deterrent.

The psychological effect of this equipment is not the main reason it is installed. The intent is to prevent the introduction of weapons into the courthouse. To do this, the equipment must be capable of maximum performance levels and be operated by trained security officers.

Metal detectors. A basic understanding of the operation of the walk-through metal detector is needed to ensure that it is installed and used properly. Manufacturers commonly call their products metal detectors--not magnetometers. The name is significant. The manufacturer is clearly telling the user what its product is designed to do--detect metal. No one should expect the metal detector to detect a plastic knife or pistol.

But the weapon need not be solid metal to be detected. Bruce Willis's character stated in the movie Die Harder that the Glock 17 automatic pistol can pass undetected through airport screening devices. In reality, if the equipment is operated properly, the Glock 17 will be detected. Those familiar with the Glock know that it contains about 2 pounds of steel.

The proper operation of a metal detector is based on electromagnetic pulsed field technology. The archway or gate is constructed of a transmitter panel and receiver panel. The transmitter pulses cause decaying eddy currents in a metal object with the sensing area of the coil. The signal induced in the receiver panel by the eddy currents is sampled and processed. Moving metals are detected when the induced signal exceeds the alarm threshold level. This alarm is then presented by a light display or sound, which may differ depending on the unit.

The receiver panel of most metal detectors is highly sensitive to moving metal or other types of electromagnetic interference. The sensing area extends some distance outside of the panels. Therefore, moving metal objects outside the panels could cause an alarm. For optimum performance and effectiveness, the unit should be kept at least three feet from people moving through the area.

The larger the moving mass, the greater the interference. Elevator doors or revolving entry doors are a frequent source of interference in courthouses. One of the more difficult problems to identify and eliminate is interference caused by electrical equipment or wiring in the area. If high-voltage cables are running under the floor, interference may result. An energized coil of cable in the ceiling directly above could cause similar problems.

The Marshals Service recently encountered a problem with a unit in a Mobile, Alabama, courthouse. The equipment periodically went into constant alarm with no one near it. Technicians could find nothing wrong with the unit. After a close examination of the area, it was determined that a computer on the other side of the wall was causing the problem. Sometimes moving the gate a few feet in one direction, or turning it around, can eliminate the problem. Because noise on the power lines is a frequent source of interference, the Marshals Service requires all new units purchased to have power line filters built in to the unit. Old units are provided with an external power conditioner.

Testing. It is important to determine the likely threat weapon and test for it daily. As building electrical noise affects the system, the testing should be done during the day when the building is active electrically to detect any interference.

Different organizations use different weapons to test the system. The threat to the operation should be analyzed, along with the conditions that will be present. The units are capable of detecting small amounts of metal; however, if the sensitivity is set too low, most people entering the buildings will be stopped. Many organizations have adopted the standard identified in the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988. Although not specified in the act, the writers of the act appear to have been referring to the North American Arms 22 cal(long) revolver.

X-ray machines. X-ray security systems are also dependent on steady electrical power. Units procured by the Marshals Service must meet power drop-out tests, surge tests, and noise filtering tests. The effect of a poor power supply is not as obvious on the X-ray as on the metal detector. The X-ray equipment may continue to operate and provide a minimally acceptable image, but it will fail much sooner than expected. A facility may invest $30,000 in one of these systems. A poor power source could result in a $10,000 repair bill two weeks after the warranty expires.

Users should ask the company providing the unit to check the power supply at an outlet when the equipment is installed. If problems persist, security can contact an independent electrical consultant who is familiar with problems affecting computer systems. The cost of the consultant will be well spent when weighed against the reduced service bills. More important, however, is the reduced downtime.

Contrary to the claims of some salespeople, the X-ray system is not a weapons or bomb detector. It presents a simple X-ray image on a TV screen. Just as a dentist must interpret X-ray film of teeth, the security officer operating the system must interpret the image on the screen. Dense materials, such as metals, provide a darker image on the screen than plastics or other types of organic materials. The shape and darkness or color of the image will assist the security officer in determining what is in the package. This takes training and practice. If the object cannot be identified, it must be opened.

It is easy to disguise a dangerous object in a suitcase with other objects. If the security officer is in too much of a hurry, he or she may overlook a suspicious object. The Glock 17 mentioned earlier is a good example. When this weapon was first introduced into the country a few years ago, security officials were concerned that it could not be detected in airport screening. A defense department official carried one through the screening point at Washington-National Airport undetected.

The breech of security made big news in the media and caused a stir in Congress. What was left unsaid was that the official also carried a standard automatic weapon through screening without being detected. It is vital to understand the limitations of this equipment. It can be a great aid to the security officer, but that is all. The equipment will not automatically detect weapons or bombs. Security officers do that by correctly interpreting images and resorting to manual inspections where the X-ray image raises questions.

Testing. Daily testing of these systems is vital. The Marshals Service uses a test object devised by the American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM) called a step wedge. This is basically a block of aluminum graduated into ten steps with five wires embedded in it. The wires run from 22 gauge to 30 gauge. The 30-gauge wire should be seen by the X-ray machine at the fifth step. All systems currently on the market should meet this standard. As with the metal detector, users should adopt a standard and test to see if their equipment meets this standard. If the wire is not visible, the user should call the service technician.

Since step wedges are not readily available for security personnel to use, other tests can be used. For example, similar test results can be accomplished when a water-filled, steel thermos bottle containing an 18-gauge wire is passed through the screening equipment.

THE ENTRY SCREENING POINT IS VITAL TO any court security program, but it is no panacea. Reliable systems must be installed that can immediately alert the security force to problems and give it specific information concerning the location of the events.

Any duress or perimeter alarm system must also be tested periodically. Modern security systems should be installed with supervised circuits that set off an alarm if the wiring is cut. If installed properly, the circuits will maintain the integrity of the system. Components, however, may fail and not cause an alarm. All components of the system should, therefore, be tested. The responsible party should record each test to ensure that it is complete. Security should not rely on the alarm service company to do the testing.

Closed-circuit video systems can be helpful to the security force, but they do not provide an alarm when a problem occurs. Cameras should only be used in critical areas, and they should be integrated with an alarming sensor. Maintenance is also vital. Adequate lighting in the area is essential to providing useable video. Fortunately, the new charge-coupled device (CCD) cameras can provide useable video at much lower light levels than the standard tube type.

New security equipment on the market can play an important part in any security program. These devices must, however, be properly installed, maintained, and supported by proper electrical service. If this is not done, screening systems will be wasting the employer's money and portraying a false sense of security to employees and visitors.

Michael G. Muller is a security specialist with the U.S. Marshals Service, Court Security Division, in Arlington, Virginia. He is a member of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Physical Security; security systems in judicial courts
Author:Muller, Michael G.
Publication:Security Management
Date:May 1, 1993
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