Gone are the days when people walk into most public buildings without some sort of security clearance. “It seems that not a month goes by when we hear of a tragic event occurring in the workplace, on a college or school campus, or in a public setting,” warns Indiana Supreme Court Sheriff Gary Miller.
As security incidents continue to occur, the need for court security increases. A courtroom is a place where disputes are resolved; however, it also is a place where volatile emotions can explode. The increased potential for danger necessitates proper court security.
Providing courthouse security is a collaborative effort between a county’s judges, its commissioners, and the sheriff. Judges have the authority to adopt rules and regulations for conducting the business of the court (Ind. Code 33-30-2-7). The Board of County Commissioners is required to provide a suitable place for conducting the business of the court (Ind. Code 33-30-7-1). And, the sheriff must preserve order in the courts (Ind. Code 36-2-13-5).
Although the situation in many counties is improving, some are still not equipped with the proper security personnel and equipment. Shelby County recently added both to their courthouse. “The first week we had our security system with metal detectors at the door, we prevented a man with a chain saw from entering the courthouse. A day laborer decided to bring it with him while attending to his courthouse business,” reported Shelby Superior Court Judge David Riggins. “If he tried that just one week earlier he might have gotten a few odd looks, but that would have been about it.”
At the recommendation of the Judicial Conference Court Security Committee, the Indiana Supreme Court adopted Administrative Rule 19, Court Security Plans, which was effective January 1, 2014. The Rule provides:
Each court shall develop and implement a court security plan to ensure security in court facilities. If more than one court occupies a court facility, the courts shall collectively develop and implement a single court security plan. The plan shall give due consideration to the provisions of the Indiana Courthouse Security Minimum Standards unanimously adopted by the Judicial Conference of Indiana in 2002 and any other provisions necessary to satisfy court facility safety and security.
To ensure security in court facilities, a court security plan, including any security policy and procedures manual adopted as part of the security plan, shall be excluded from public access pursuant to Admin. R. 9(G)(2)(b)(vii).
Each county should form a court security committee. This committee should meet regularly, review any security incidents, and continuously evaluate and improve its court security plan. “We should not be complacent,” Sheriff Miller added. “Security is an important issue that everyone needs to be aware of, not just when something unfortunate happens, but on a continuing basis.” He also emphasized the importance of developing security plans for emergency situations.
Judicial officers can regulate who and what can enter the courtroom. Dearborn County judges have recently adopted a local rule on court security (LR15-AR-14-Dearborn County Courthouse/Government Complex Security Committee and Establishing Security Guidelines). Administrative or technical information that would jeopardize a record keeping, security system or court security plan described in Administrative Rule 19 is excluded from public access and is confidential pursuant to Administrative Rule 9 (G)(2)(b)(vii).
To further aid in creating a safer court environment, the Indiana Judicial Center (IJC) offers training for court staff and court security officers. On Friday, September 12, 2014, an educational session will be held for court security officers. Additionally, as part of court staff education, security will be addressed at the July 14, 2014 IJC conference.
Courts are responsible for the security of their records. According to Administrative Rule 10(A):
Each judge is administratively responsible for the integrity of the judicial records of the court and must ensure that measures and procedures are employed to protect such records from mutilation, false entry, theft, alienation, and any unauthorized alteration, addition, deletion, or replacement of items of data elements.
Grant Superior Judge Warren Haas, Chair of the Judicial Conference’s Court Security Committee, recommends “a verified, off-site backup drive as an ‘insurance policy’ for all electronic records.”
Personal Judicial Officer Security
Judicial security encompasses not only what happens inside the courthouse, but also the personal safety of the judicial officers and their families. As discussed below, judicial officers should complete the Judicial Profile and share that document with law enforcement. This document contains personal information and should be held in confidence. In case of an emergency, law enforcement will have key information that can be critical in their support role. In addition, the Judicial Family Institute has many resources for personal safety.
Judges with INcite accounts have access to court security resources as part of the benchbook application. Court staff may also have access, if approved by the judge.
In the benchbook application, under “Security Documents,” the following forms and information are useful in addressing court security:
- Model Security Local Rule: This document can be used to draft a local rule to regulate who and what items may enter the courthouse.
- Security Incident Reporting Form: This much improved form now has fillable spaces that can be saved and emailed to the IJC. Courts are encouraged to track their security incidents for their own sake and for the sake of the state.
- Judicial Profile: This document is for a judicial officer’s personal security. A completed copy will be held in confidence by the law enforcement agency on-call in case of an emergency (e.g. Indiana State Police, County Sheriff, or City Police Department).
- Recommended Security Minimum Standards: This document contains the standards referred to in Administrative Rule 19.
- CCJ/COSCA Court Security Handbook: This reference handbook is a useful resource when creating a court security plan.
- National Center for State Courts Best Security Practices: This is also a great reference for use in drafting a court security plan.
- Security Considerations for Indiana Courts – A Practical Guide for Court Security Officers: This is a nuts and bolts guideline for creating a court security plan.
The Judicial Conference’s Court Security Committee meets on a regular basis and encourages all judicial officers to submit their questions or concerns.
In addition, Indiana Judicial Center Security Advisor, Bob Champion, is also available to assess the security of a county courthouse and to prepare a written report. This report can be a crucial aid when requesting courthouse security personnel and equipment from county commissioners. Please contact him at 317-232-1313 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For additional information on this article, please contact the author at 317-232-1313 or email@example.com.