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The security challenge: order in the court.

THE SECURITY CHALLENGE: ORDER IN THE COURT THE ESCAPEE WAS ARMED AND DANGEROUS; LOCAL residents were frightened and angry. They demanded an explanation of how a man scheduled for sentencing on multiple felonies could escape from two transport deputies at a courthouse in broad daylight. The sheriff admitted the escapee had found the key to the locks of the window grills. It was later learned that many of the jail inmates knew a spare key was kept near the makeshift detention room at the courthouse. The only people who did not know where the key was hidden were the transport deputies.

The hearing was nearly over when the defendant, who believed his life was ruined by the divorce proceedings, opened his briefcase, removed a handgun, and killed himself in full view of his spouse, the attorneys, and the judge. No one was more surprised, however than the nice old bailiff who shook his head and thought to himself, "That never happened here before!"

As the older car pulled into the motel lot, the police officers spoke of the accuracy of the intelligence they had been provided. The driver was a man dressed in green fatigues. He had a loaded rifle lying on the rear seat of his car. The trunk held a military shovel and an olive drab body bag. These items were proof enough to law enforcement officials that the man intended to carry out his threat to kidnap and murder the judge's daughter.

These court security-related incidents do not have to be fabricated, as they are more common than many would like to believe. The real dilemma for the court security manager is how best to prepare staff for dealing with such events.

The courts occupy a special position of respect and support in our society. People want courthouses to be safe places where those seeking relief through judicial processes can present their views.

The mission of court security is to protect the process and the participants. The task is complicated by several factors. First, the open and largely symbolic architectural design defeats many security purposes. Secondly, such buildings are always open to the public, and restricting access often amounts to a constitutional crisis. Third, many court security providers believe that "it will never happen here" and that court security is an assignment for personnel who are not able to function in any other capacity.

To some degree, managers responsible for providing court security services have contributed to the current crisis by not addressing the issues of proper recruitment and selection, specialized training, and emergency preparedness. Such inactivity denies the courts the properly trained security officers they need. Court security managers must also understand their general responsibility for safety and security, which extends to attorneys and litigants as well.

These managers have also ignored the fact that in most courthouses across the country, many nonjudicial functions and activities occur daily. Court security managers have a duty to protect the citizens who use these services as well, since they have a right to believe such premises are safe.

One of the special problems of court security, then, is to develop high-quality, truly relevant, specialized training for personnel assigned to the court security function. It is particularly important that the training enhance the self-esteem of those that participate. Court security officers should recognize that they provide a special type of security service, often under difficult conditions. The real value of their service assignment should be emphasized, and nothing should suggest that such an assignment is a lesser duty than more exciting aspects of government service.

The state or county criminal justice training council can develop such a court security officer curriculum only with the help of practitioners and managers. One method is to form a court security training committee. Careful thought should be given to its membership balance. Judges, court staff, and security managers should be represented.

Court security services are provided by local, county, and state law enforcement agencies as well as private security contractors. Essential to success in delivering the product is the inclusion of training specialists. These professionals help the group identify the tasks performed as well as the knowledge level, skills, and attitudes required to perform each task well. When the training program is properly structured and administered, the training council will be able to offer formal certification of its graduates. Such certification reinforces the importance of the training and enhances the self-esteem of those assigned to court security.

Outside training programs can also be useful. The US Marshals Service provides an excellent program at its training center in Georgia. In addition, both the US Marshals court security seminar and the US Secret Service protective operations briefing at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia are excellent programs. Private consulting and training groups also offer court security officer training.

However, total reliance on such programs for local training needs is impractical for several reasons. First, the rate of turnover of officers assigned to court security may make distant training less desirable. For example, Maine, with 55 court locations and approximately 125 contractual court security officers (most provided through the county sheriff) would have to send 20 to 40 persons to such a seminar every year. During the past four years, the office of court security services has trained over 150 court security officers. This effort has not solved the problem since the court security service is always 25 to 35 people behind due to turnover because of new assignments, retirements, and relocations.

Second, federal and private curricula do not contain specific information for all classes of court security assignments. The tasks of district, traffic, municipal, county, trial, common pleas, domestic relations, and supreme court officers are in some ways the same and in many ways different. A seminar designed for a specific court system can provide for instruction in both general and specific duties.

Third, outside seminars seldom offer the opportunity to discuss local obstacles to improving court security services. Much is gained when those who provide the court security service talk with those who use the service. The task force approach has the additional court staff, sheriffs or other managers, and senior court security officers, who develop standards of performance that can be applied throughout the system. This result alone is well worth the effort to court security managers.

Fourth, seminars that use outside experts fail to recognize the conscientious and competent employees currently on staff. An in-house program can recognize these persons by using them as trainers or training assistants. This approach further demonstrates that good service is rewarded. Another benefit is the greatly improved interoffice communication and cooperation that seems to be a by-product of local court security officer training programs. Those improvements may also be the result of the enhanced self-esteem that court security officers get from such training.

THE ACTUAL DESIGN OF A COURT security officer training program takes place in several stages. Tasks that are to be performed by all participants must be identified and evaluated in terms of frequency and criticality. The knowledge, skill, and attitudes necessary to perform these tasks properly must be addressed by the instructional and performance objectives. Finally, to ensure that the participants have gained these desired objectives, a testing process must be developed.

Of course, not all tests have to be the standard written variety. The program in Maine uses role play situations conducted in actual courtrooms to determine if the instructor was successful in communicating the desired knowledge, skill, and attitude for a particular task or group of tasks. Some role plays are so contrived as to lose value as learning devices, but those in the Maine program recreate actual court security incidents and let the participants deal with them based on the training. Of course, written exams are necessary for various other components, such as the use of force and search and seizure issues. The final exercise is yet another type of evaluation: The class is divided into small groups that must prepare plans for a high-risk trial. Each group member then presents his or her portion of the plan to the class, just as would be done at an actual briefing.

Court security officer training can cover many topics. Court security managers may accept some and reject others depending on what tasks are performed by court security officers at the sites under their control. Also, officers' authority or status as law enforcers may change from site to site.

Basic court security officer training is required for all personnel assigned to the courts in Maine. Persons whose sole responsibilities are normal jury duty assignments participate in a separate seminar. The following are common court security officer training topics:

] Legal issues. This unit offers the participant general legal information on search and seizure as well as the use of force above and beyond the normal law enforcement experience. Case law, specifically on court security events, is used. Local judicial rules are also explained.

] Nonverbal communication. Court security officers must become experts at reading people and anticipating behavior. Since the nonverbal behavior all people practice indicates their thoughts and potential conduct, a unit of formal instruction and experimentation is offered.

] Handling the mentally ill. Dealing with persons who are mentally ill can cause anxiety among court security officers. This unit attempts to give the participants adequate information to increase the effectiveness of their responses and yet recognize the sensitivity of the situation. A mental health practitioner is the instructor.

] Courthouse security surveys. Every court security officer should have a basic knowledge of physical, electronic, and procedural security issues. The awareness created from specific information in this unit gives every officer enough confidence to recognize and report potential breaches of court security.

] Protective operations. Court security officers may be called on to travel with a judge or may be assigned to him or her or the family after a threat. The basic elements of providing personal protective services are presented as is specific information on formations and special equipment.

] Threat analysis. A threat against a judge or his or her family is an assault on the criminal justice system itself. The actual investigation of such a threat may be conducted by another agency, but the court security officer is often the first to know about and respond to the problem. This unit is offered to give the court security officer basic information about threats and the elements used to determine their validity.

] Explosives and bomb threats. Court security officers are not expected to be bomb technicians, but they should be able to recognize the common components of explosive devices. This portion of training also covers courthouse bomb searches and evacuation procedures.

] Intelligence. The collection and evaluation of intelligence regarding threats and high-risk trials may be the responsibility of another agency. However, the court security officer needs to know what types of information are useful and where and how to report such information. The local court security officer may also be the only person with a source for needed information during a threat investigation.

] Hostage events. The court security officer, if not the hostage, will certainly be the first responder and must know the rules for such situations. This unit also provides some opportunity to discuss the need for emergency planning.

] High-risk trials. Planning for a high-risk trial begins with a security survey of the courthouse, the normal access and egress routes, plant hardware, and general procedures. This exercise gives court security officers an opportunity to combine several units of the training program in a problem-solving mode.

] Judicial protocol. This unit covers the various proceedings that take place at each level of the court. These different proceedings require different duty assignment of court security officers. This unit also covers variations in court rules and includes a discussion of local problems and remedies.

] Jury details. The court security officer assigned to the jury function must recognize the problems created by the need to keep the jurors away from persons, places, and materials that could lead to a claim of prejudice. The process begins with selection and ends with sequestration, which raises a number of security considerations.

Most court security officer training programs also cover physical restraint and control, escorting victims serving as witnesses, administrative matters, demonstration of skill with issued equipment, CPR certification, and firearms training as required.

Creating an effective, relevant court security officer training program is only part of the challenge for professional court security managers. Officers require continuous in-service training as well as specialized training when new equipment, procedures, or courthouses are introduced. In addition, maintaining the interest and awareness developed by the training over time is difficult. Frequent reinforcement, special assignments, and open communications help keep officers' interest high.

ONE SPECIAL PROJECT COURT Security managers should consider is to develop specific emergency response plans for each court location. Local court officials, court security supervisors, and other support staff can participate in the effort. These individualized emergency response plans are the best way to offer guidance during an emergency situation for all persons involved. Once the plans are developed, they should be distributed to department heads for review. The court security officers can then conduct an in-service training session for courthouse employees of all departments, both judicial and nonjudicial.

The Maine Office of Court Security Services has prepared site-specific courthouse emergency response plans for each court in the state. The emergency situations covered include medical emergencies, theft and robbery events, bomb threats and explosions, fire and smoke situations, civil disturbances, hostage events, prisoner custody problems, general threat events, duress alarm procedures, and other emergencies such as chemical hazards, nuclear hazards, and floods. Court security managers often assign senior security officers the task of keeping all these plans updated and active.

Preparing a courthouse emergency plan requires a site visit and some candid discussion with all the major participants. The court security manager may encounter personal preferences for which law enforcement agency responds to an emergency at the courthouse. Deciding on an agency can be a problem when several tiers of law enforcement service providers (state, county, and local) share jurisdiction. Identifying primary and secondary responders may ease the confusion.

In addition, local services such as the fire department, hospital liaison, military units (bomb disposal), highway maintenance, and local utilities should be contacted. Also, the potential for a courthouse security problem is not limited to working hours; the emergency plan should therefore include key persons' home and seasonal dwelling phone numbers. The building superintendent or courthouse janitor must also be involved in some of the planning.

The benefits of planning for courthouse emergencies include the avoidance of territorial disputes during emergencies and the reduction of duplication of effort and response time delays due to misunderstanding.

The court security mission is to protect the judicial process and all its participants. Everyone who enters a courthouse in the legitimate pursuit of justice has a right to be safe from harm. Further, such persons should be able to expect that those charged with the security of the courthouse have taken reasonable efforts to plan a response to potential emergencies.

Court security managers must carefully balance security needs and judicial needs. The efforts made to ensure the safety and security of the court must not interfere with the judicial process nor make the building inaccessible to lawful users. While the courts are anxious to have competent, professional court security services, they cannot and will not authorize activity that might violate the civil rights of any participant. Therefore, a court security manager must always be ready and willing to find an alternative means of providing the desired level of security.

The development and delivery of a professional court security training program is critical to the accomplishment of the mission. Comprehensive planning and ongoing staff training for potential courthouse emergency situations provides the only real opportunity to offer control in a time of chaos. The court security manager who can provide both routine security and emergency management does justice to his or her profession.
COPYRIGHT 1989 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Cade, William A., Jr.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Jun 1, 1989
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