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Security found not guilty.

ASSAULTS ON THE JUDICIARY AND violence in the courtrooms of America are at an all-time high. The killing of a federal appellate judge by a pipe bomb in Alabama, the bombing and maiming of a county judge in Maryland, and the shootings of judges and lawyers inside courtrooms in Florida and Texas are all evidence of the seriousness of the situation.

Ideally, security specialists should work closely with designers, architects, and court personnel when a new courthouse is designed or an existing building is renovated. But how can security problems be eradicated in courthouse facilities that were designed and constructed years ago and never subjected to security considerations?

A risk and threat assessment should be prepared for the facility and the general locale regarding burglaries, vandalism, and other crimes in the area. Local police officials can provide crime statistics to assess the threat properly. With regard to the threat from a particular case, the police can also provide results of their local investigation, for example, information regarding planned interruptions of the upcoming trial. The assessment should include histories of public demonstrations at the courthouse, including types of injuries to personnel or damage, if any. If demonstrations are expected at the site, CCTV cameras with a videocassette recorder should be in place.

The next step in the process is the security survey of the facility itself. The objectives and the goals of the survey should first be defined. Once areas of concern have been identified, a complete walk-around and walk-through of the perimeter and interior of the building should take place.

Starting with the perimeter of the courthouse, one problem of immediate concern may be the foliage surrounding the parking area. Care should be taken to trim trees and bushes to ensure that police or passersby are not prohibited from seeing vandals or thieves who might be in or around the parking lot.

Dense foliage surrounding the courthouse also prevents police and passersby from seeing broken windows. Trees next to the building permit an intruder to ascend and gain entry at the second- or third-story levels unseen because of the available lighting. For these reasons trees close to the building must be removed or trimmed, and the foliage must be trimmed regularly.

Adequate lighting around the courthouse also provides protection for employees working late and aids in the unobstructed observation of the building by police. If exterior lighting is not available immediately, as many perimeter room lights as possible should be left on to deter criminals until the necessary lighting is in place.

The retail sector of the security industry has discovered that the use of CCTV cameras provide a psychological deterrent to shoplifters. Ninety percent of the security battle may be won in courthouse security if the same psychology is used around the courthouse grounds, including adding signs that advertise the use of such cameras. Strategically placed CCTV motion detecting cameras should be mounted on other buildings or poles to videotape activities around the building. Cameras should only be activated when there is motion in their view.

Other security enhancing options include installing glass-break sensors or vibration detectors on windows and contact switches on doors to alarm during any burglary or vandalism attempt. These alarm systems can ultimately report to a central alarm system operator or the police. Additionally, a local alarm can be installed to frighten away intruders. A third option is to install motion detectors in each room.

Perimeter windows to the courtrooms and chambers are easily accessible to the public and potential snipers. Bullet-resistant glass should be installed at construction. Adding the glazing after the initial construction is expensive. In the absence of funding for ballistic-resistant glazing, the drapes or blinds on the courtroom and chambers' windows should be kept closed while personnel are in attendance to provide a greater degree of security. Inexpensive tinted film can be placed on the glass to prevent anyone from seeing into the courtroom from the outside.

Break-resistant film can also be installed on courtroom and judges' chamber windows to prevent injury from flying glass in case an object is thrown at the window from the outside. This type of film is relatively inexpensive. Some manufacturers offer a ballistic-resistant film application that is placed on thicker glass panes.

All entries into the building should be inspected and secured, including the roof and any sewer or water pipes that might permit entrance. The grates outside such buildings are usually not secured. They can be lifted to gain entry into the building through unlocked windows. Grates should be secured with padlocks, and the windows should be kept locked at all times after business hours. Any fire escapes on the building should be secured by grates or fences permitting egress but not ingress. The hinges on all perimeter doors should be hidden and inaccessible to prevent them from being removed by burglars.

The locks on all perimeter doors and windows should be quality hardware manufactured by a reputable security lock company. Maintaining key control is an important consideration, especially in an older building. Hundreds of keys may have been issued since the building has been in use, and by now key control may be a thing of the past. It is probably necessary to rekey all the perimeter doors.

Entrance into the facility by the public should only be available through one entryway. All other doors should be secured from the inside within life and safety code requirements. Employees may be permitted to use a different door or the same entrance. A CCTV camera could be used to observe traffic through the employees' door.

All doors and windows should be locked in the evening and during weekends. Delivery people should not be allowed to enter just any door or roam unaccompanied throughout the building. An access control policy should require all deliveries at one location, such as a loading dock, with an intercom and bell sounding at the security office where personnel will respond and take delivery of the packages.

Security personnel should inspect all packages. If a package is suspicious, it should be inspected through the X-ray system or an explosives detection team should be called.

At the entrance, screening for contraband, such as weapons and explosives, and restricted objects, such as cameras and tape recorders, should be in effect. Proper screening is accomplished by the use of walk-through metal detectors, magnetometers, and X-ray machines. Hand-held metal detectors should be available at the screening location to avoid long delays. If the budget does not permit the purchase of both an X-ray machine and a metal detector, then the metal detector should be the selected screening device since it is less expensive and not dependent on an operator.

Fail-safe fire doors are needed on any doors required to be locked from inside. In the absence of a sprinkler system, a well-designed personnel alarm and evacuation plan should be in effect with fire extinguishers, and standpipe hoses should be located throughout the building according to code.

Employees who must handle large amounts of cash should be provided with duress alarms to summon law enforcement assistance. The duress alarms should annunciate in the security office communications room or at the local police station. If security personnel patrol the building but do not have a communications room, pagers should be used to notify them of an alarm.

A security plan should be in effect to cover situations such as when a duress alarm is activated and persons are being held hostage. The security plan should outline which agency will respond during business hours and whether that agency is in the building. The plan should also describe what agency will handle problems after business hours and what staffing is available to assist from other agencies. All variables must be considered, including summoning other help, such as a special weapons and tactics (SWAT) team, hostage negotiation team, or explosive ordinance demolition (EOD) team.

The offices handling cash transactions, including the clerk's office and cashier area in the cafeteria, should have enhanced security. Duress alarms should be in place. In the case of the clerk, a counter with bullet-resistant transparent glazing or at least a break-resistant transparent material, such as plexiglass, with a teller drawer should be installed.

The court's probation, parole, and pretrial offices should all be equipped with duress alarms at the public counter. The counter areas should be protected with a break-resistant material, such as an acrylic or plexiglass shield.

The judges' benches in courtrooms should be equipped with duress alarms and ballistic-resistant material capable of withstanding a projectile from a .357 caliber weapon. A duress alarm should be located on the clerk's desk, along with battery-backed emergency lights, and key-operated security light switches.

Audiovisual equipment should be available in case a defendant becomes unruly and is removed to his or her holding cell to hear and see the trial on a video monitor. The courtroom should be equipped with a defendant's chair that is bolted to the floor and is equipped with chain loops to anchor the defendant to the chair if he or she becomes unruly.

Each judge's suite, which includes the judge's chamber, secretarial offices, and clerk's offices, should be protected by duress alarms, and the entrance door to the suite should be protected by a CCTV camera, electric door strike, and an intercom. The camera should be monitored by the secretary who should be provided with a master intercom and a door strike release.

The door leading from the public area to any restricted area should be protected with an electric door strike and controlled by the receptionist. Duress alarms should be provided to the supervisor and receptionist and put in one or two strategically placed locations throughout the office.

The ceiling, attic, plenum (the area above the false ceiling), and air-conditioning and heating ducts of the facility should be inspected. Appropriate grates or obstacles should be in position to prevent someone from crawling through air-conditioning or heating ducts. If the ceiling has been lowered, motion detectors may be needed in the plenum to detect intruders.

Offices in which highly sensitive business takes place, such as the district attorney's office and court record rooms, should be protected by CCTV cameras, door contact switches, and motion detectors within the room or, at the least, capacitance alarms on the file cabinet safes.

The corridors traversed by judges or prisoners should be viewed by CCTV cameras and monitored in the control room. These corridors must be secure and closed to the public. In the event that such corridors are not available, it will be necessary for the sheriff deputies, U.S. Marshals Service, or another law enforcement authority to secure the corridors and evacuate them before any prisoner movement.

At least one of the building's elevators should be used exclusively by judges and should be key or card operated. A separate elevator that is key or card operated should be made available for prisoner transportation.

An emergency evacuation plan for fire and bomb threats is necessary as a follow-up to the security plan. An electronic or mechanical system, such as alarms, must be available to alert all persons to evacuate the building. The description and posting of travel routes for evacuation of the building is of primary importance. A list of personnel in each office should be available to determine that everyone has been evacuated. Individuals with disabilities may need more time or different routes, and those considerations should be taken into account in advance. Individuals and designated alternates responsible for evacuating particular floors and offices should be identified.

Fire drills must be held periodically, especially to time the evacuation and discover how long it takes to reroute persons if necessary. It is not sufficient to merely evacuate all personnel. It is necessary to relocate them to a safe area where they can be protected from a bomb blast and resultant fire. The plan should also explain how liaison will be maintained between the organization and the available EOD team whether military or local police.

If the courthouse facility has vaults, they should be capable of resisting tools, torches, or explosives on all six sides for specified periods of time. For example, a vault rated TXTL-60 is capable of resisting attack for 60 minutes while a TL-15 is only capable of resisting attack for 15 minutes. Fire-resistant vaults are similarly rated, for example a 350-4 is resistant to attack for four hours.

The security requirements of a vault depend on the facility's needs. A fire-resistant vault or burglary-resistant vault or a combination of both may be needed. If a vault is not constructed of solid steel on all six sides but merely consists of a solid door with walls of normal construction materials, obviously more security is needed. A door contact switch, a simple heat-rise detector alarm for fire, and a motion detector alarm to guard against surreptitious entry will suffice.

The location of the electrical circuit panels in the facility should be noted. These panels should be accessible only to authorized persons. Each of these panels should be locked and the key kept under the control of the agency responsible for the building or for security within the building. During a sensitive trial in which the public's safety is at risk, the keys should be in the custody of the law enforcement agency responsible for security during the trial. Circuit and lights within the panel should be labeled on the inside of the door so that appropriate authorities can easily identify them, if necessary. An emergency power generator should be installed. In the absence of a generator, battery-backed emergency lights should be installed in courtrooms, chambers, and prisoner detention areas.

If staffing permits, a central control or communications room should be available to receive duress alarms, fire alarms, and other emergency calls. Security or law enforcement personnel should be equipped with two-way radios and dispatched from this room and all situations should be controlled from this room. Due to shortage of personnel, the central communications area is often part of the local sheriff's office and controlled by a member of the sheriff's staff. For federal courthouses in smaller cities the alarms sometimes annunciate at the security screening post, which is an acceptable alternative.

Work schedules of all courthouse personnel should be investigated to determine which employees depart late and which arrive early. Weekend and evening schedules of personnel should also be noted, as well as whether judges and other employees are working in their offices during these hours without any security protection available.

By focusing on these access control concerns, both exterior and interior, courthouse security managers can fulfill their goal--to protect the people and assets of the courts of law and work to prevent potential violence perpetrated on the judiciary and innocent bystanders.

Lawrence Mc Micking, CPP, is a supervisory security specialist for the United States Marshals Service 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:Courthouse Security; security considerations for courthouses
Author:McMicking, Lawrence
Publication:Security Management
Date:Jun 1, 1993
Previous Article:Who is tomorrow's security professional?
Next Article:Safely behind bars.

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