WASHINGTON – The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) recently released a new security blueprint for America’s state courts, emphasizing critical review of operating procedures and facilities, planning, funding, and new courthouse design.
Given increased urgency by the recent shootings in Fulton County, Ga., the 10-point program will result in a strategic action plan that will draw from a compilation of best practices and will provide the mechanism for identifying resource and funding needs.
The National Center for State Courts is presenting those survey-supported elements as a possible framework for the full development of court security strategies. The NCSC will engage all critical stakeholders in further defining state plans, and will convene the National summit to further this critical effort.
Critical 10 Elements for Court Security Planning
- Operational Security. Standard Operating Procedures. This is one of the most critical deficiencies in the state court system today. Standard operating procedures are not being followed and for full safety, there needs to be 100 percent compliance.
- Facility Security Planning. The Self-Audit Survey of Court Facilities. This point emphasizes the need to know the strengths and weaknesses of the physical structure of the courtroom to best protect the people inside.
- Emergency Preparedness and Response. Continuity of Operations. At any moment, courts can be affected by natural or unnatural disasters; however, they must continue to operate and serve the public in such an event. There needs to be a greater awareness and identification of command structure, protocols, and communication routes for such emergencies and responses.
- Disaster Recovery. Essential Elements of a Plan. The point emphasizes the need to ensure that adequate procedures are in place to recover lost or vulnerable information in the event of an emergency.
- Threat Assessment. The federal government currently has an effective threat assessment protocol in practice. However, for security and safety purposes, state courts need to begin identifying serious threats so they may prepare for the proper protective action.
- Incident Reporting. States must develop an appropriate incident report form that allows for capturing data on items such as intelligence and funding needs.
- Funding. This is another critical deficiency facing the court system today and for years past. Equipment can be bought at moderate costs but without the trained personnel, the equipment is of little to no use. In addition, many state court administrators are troubled by the lack of federal funds. While much money is appropriate to homeland security, very little is dedicated to state courts.
- Security Equipment and Costs. State courts must have updated and readily available information on what technology is available to them and how much it costs.
- Resources and Partnerships. Strong and effective partnerships among state courts, law enforcement, and county commissioners must be developed to ensure successful security operations.
- New Courthouse Design. As new courthouses are being constructed, this point emphasizes the opportunity to ensure that up-to-date physical safety measures are included in the design stage.
For more information, visit the NCSC Web site. www.ncsconline.org