By Terry Baxter, Law Enforcement and Safety Specialist
Everyone is aware of the insurrection that engulfed the US Capitol this past month. From my point of view, it was discouraging and heartbreaking to see such a monumental piece of history being overtaken so easily. I would have never thought, I would witness large masses of individuals roaming freely throughout the US Capitol, gaining forcible access to areas considered restricted and scared.
One thing I did notice however, there appeared to be a plan in place to protect officials from the unruly and angered mob that had stormed the
building. I am sure everyone working in that building had some concept of emergency preparedness plans, but I also bet no one inside the US Capitol every thought they would actually need to respond during a siege of the building. News reports indicated how stunned lawmakers were as they were being evacuated and moved to safe locations.
When you see how vulnerable our US Capitol building was during this violent event, didn’t it make you reflect how easily something like this
could happen that quick at a county level? It may not reach the degree of violence witnessed in Washington, but could it?
In the aftermath, there was intel information put out to authorities indicating large masses would be gathering at state capitols throughout
the United States and encouraged state and local authorities to be prepared. Though those gatherings didn’t reach the level of violence that
was suspected, many reasons for the non-violence may have been the implementation of additional security measures deterring threats as
anyone should have known officials would be ready for anything.
Though concerned, threats in advance triggering security or safety enhancements did not bother me as much as those I had no prior warning
of. Now don’t get me wrong, bad things could of still happened, but when law enforcement has prior intel on potential threats and/or hazards, they can ensure all the necessary security and safety resources are in place, but those premediated events sometime happen without warnings and they are the ones most concerning.
Look many of you have seen protests or large gatherings occur at your courthouses, in which citizens were enraged, angered over something they were passionate about and affected them personally in one way or another. But sometimes contained in those groups, are concerns of a
certain number of individuals who are out to cause nothing more than civil unrest. Those individuals have no real interest in the public’s cause. They are only there to promote their own agenda and what a perfect opportunity to carry out their goals.
I can’t express enough, the importance of developing emergency plans for your courthouse, but even more importantly, after plans are put into
place, is exercising those plans, testing the components of the plans, ensuring everyone knows what to do and how to respond in the event of
If you have ever heard any of my presentations relating to courthouse security, read articles I have shared, I stress the importance of safety
and security, not only from installing security equipment, but also from a planning, awareness and a training standpoint.
Courthouses are designed to be accessible to the public and I realize many elected officials want to keep it that way, but we cannot ignore
the fact that courthouses can become vulnerable to random acts of violence. How you respond during violent events will be analyzed on
how well or ill prepared county officials and staff were.
It is obvious, as we saw on a federal level that even with all the security mechanisms in place attacks can still occur, I have always said, we
cannot predict where a violent event will occur, but we can prepare for one, don’t get caught with the concept it can’t happen here mentality.
By planning and implementing effective security mechanisms, the hope is to deter, detect and limit casualties and damages, but this only
happens when everyone prepares in advance. The overall goal is safety, maintaining a thorough security program will assist with maintaining
your security and safety goals.
Sometimes things will go inexplicably wrong, so when that happens everyone needs to know how to rapidly respond and this concept is only
accomplished through adequate planning and training. Violent attacks are broken down into two categories; 1) opportunistic and, 2) premediated. With continuous planning, training, communication among personnel and adequate security mechanisms, many of these threats
can be greatly diminished.
Courthouse security is based on a balance of four essential components. Absence of any one of these components, greatly affects the security and safety of the facility and personnel.
- Planning and training of the stakeholders.
- Cooperation between law enforcement and first responders.
- County technological services.
- Configuration of the physical structure.
Minimizing risk does not necessarily need to be expensive, many of the security and safety mechanisms can be accomplished with little to no
funding. Ensuring emergency preparedness plans are current, up to date and staff stay current on plans through annual training can go a long way to increase the security and safety risk inherent in county government. NIRMA Loss Prevention can assist with addressing deficiencies and provide on-site trainings on how to improve occupational safety and health principles.