JUDICIAL BRANCH IDENTIFIES SECURITY PRIORITIES
In April 2013, following a thorough review of security measures in place at the New Castle County Courthouse (NCCCH), as well as all Delaware courthouses statewide, Chief Justice Myron T. Steele submitted a list of key security priorities, and a budget request supporting implementation of those priorities, to the other branches of government. The security priority recommendations were developed by the Judicial Branch in consultation with security experts, including the U.S. Marshal Service, the Office of Safety and Homeland Security, and others, to ensure that the best possible security measures are in place in Delaware courthouses and to formulate recommendations on security enhancements moving forward. Those recommendations focused on:
- Additional security staffing, the first priority, to address long-standing inadequacies in courthouse security staffing,
- Improvements to the configuration of the NCCCH lobby geared towards controlling the traffic flow and enhancing security surveillance capacities,
- Review and enhancement of security-related court policies and procedures, and organizational structures, to address each courthouse's security needs and to promote statewide consistency,
- Installation of additional security equipment, including cameras, intrusion devices, and ballistic security barriers statewide to expand surveillance capacity and augment the ability to access forensic records of security threats,
- Structural improvements to further enhance courthouse security statewide, and
- Enhancements to security training for courthouse employees and security officers.
In his remarks released on April 16, 2013, the Chief Justice noted that a number of security initiatives are already in process, such as the review of court security policies and procedures, employee training for safety and emergency procedures, and emergency employee notification enhancements. Examples include the creation and distribution of the NCCCH Safety and Emergency Procedures booklet, work on a similar booklet for personnel in other courthouses, development of computer-based training highlighting those procedures, and installation of additional ballistics materials at key locations. Acknowledging that the funding needed to accomplish the security changes to our courthouses is "considerable," the Chief Justice addressed the importance of identifying all key security priorities and seeking funding from all viable sources to complete those improvements.
"The tragic events which occurred on February 11, 2013 at the New Castle County Courthouse have changed our view of courts and security permanently. We have been forced to face the reality that security is never guaranteed. In today's world, violence can occur anywhere " whether at a courthouse or on the street. We can, however, use the heartbreaking acts of violence that occurred on February 11th as a catalyst to enhance security at our courts. On February 11th, we were fortunate that the quick and heroic actions of the Capitol Police officers on duty at the time prevented a breach of the security perimeter at the courthouse, saving many additional lives and keeping a very tragic event from becoming catastrophic. As we move forward, our focus must be on taking the actions necessary to protect those who work in, and access, our courts, which, in turn, serve to safeguard the rights of our citizens."