Court Security Committee
Court Security Newsletter - December 2010
COURT SECURITY QUARTERLY
What Is Layered Security?
“Layered security” is a phrase most often associated with computers and IT systems. It expresses the idea that a number of layers of defense make the system much more secure than if only one method is used. Any single layer of defense may be flawed, and the flaw may not be recognized until there is an attack. This concept is applicable to the security of our courts as well.
According to the US Marshals, there were 500 threats to federal judges and prosecutors in 2003, and that number rose to 1,278 in 2008, with an increase in 2009.* By reviewing the incident reports submitted in our state, it becomes apparent that the numbers of threats received by Washington judges also appears to be on the rise. With so many facing economic struggles and very little relief in sight, judges, clerks, attorneys and others associated with the court may easily become targets of frustration.
Now, more than ever, judges should do an audit of their security systems in and around the courthouse and in and around their homes. If you have received a threat to yourself or your family, ask your local law enforcement or sheriff to conduct a security assessment of your residence. Do not put your name on the outside of your residence or mailbox. Ensure that the vegetation around the perimeter of your home does not allow for someone to hide or lie in wait. Keep an unlisted telephone number, and try to vary your routes and travel times to and from work. For additional suggestions regarding personal security and security at the courthouse, you can consult the Courthouse Safety Standards and its appendices (linked below).
Information sharing is crucial at this time, as well. If you know of a case that has an increased potential for volatility by any of the case participants or by their friends or relatives, communicate this information to your court security staff and/or law enforcement. They may send additional personnel to the court to maintain a secure and safe environment for all in attendance. Advise your court staff also, so they will be on alert. It goes without saying that a plan to ensure the safety of those who work, attend and visit the court is much better than a responsive reaction after an event.
If you have an emergency button on the bench, make certain that it is operating properly. If you have an open court docket due to settlement of a trial, conduct a mock emergency drill so that clerks, security, and other staff are made familiar with proper emergency responses. Advise security or law enforcement personnel of your emergency drill; they may be able to give input. If you do not have the time to conduct a drill, take time to sit down with security and/or law enforcement to get their input on best practices and improvements that may be made for the safety of the courthouse, and communicate suggested best practices to court staff. Confirm that emergency contact numbers are readily accessible to all court staff.
With decreased budgets, courts must work with fewer resources and decreased staff to ensure continued access to justice in the safest environment possible. Communication with staff and law enforcement is free and makes certain that all who work at the court know how to respond should an emergency arise, and it may also bring forth innovative suggestions not previously considered.
*Information obtained from the Judicial Security Division of the US Marshals Service.
For a Court Security Incident Report Form, click here: Court Security Incident Report Form
To view the most recent incident report log, click here: Dec 2010 Incident Report Log Update
To review current courthouse safety standards, click here: Courthouse Safety Standards
If you have comments or suggestions for articles for
the Court Security Newsletter, please let us know!
Have a peace-filled
And a safe and Happy New Year!
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