The Third Branch
Director's column: Director's column: Conference to explore court security issues
By A. John Voelker, Director of State Courts
|A. John Voelker|
I was recently asked by Fox Valley Technical College to submit responses for a question and answer article about court security. The article will be published in an upcoming edition of The Informant, a newsletter item that runs inside a catalogue of course offerings of the National Criminal Justice Training Center at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton.
In recent years, Fox Valley Technical College has become a strong partner with the court system in helping provide court security education and training for students, court staff and the law enforcement community.
This article will be published in part to promote the fourth annual court security conference scheduled for March 4-6, 2014. Presenters will discuss various case studies in court security, including the George Zimmerman homicide trial in Florida. Other topics include high-profile trial planning, victim/witness protection, prisoner transport, and incidents related to custody and family trials.
In the article, I address the importance of collaboration, training and courthouse security practices. Here is a preview:
Why is it important for law enforcement and courts to collaborate on courthouse security practices?
Collaboration is critical for maintaining a safe courthouse environment. The importance of the collaboration is highlighted in Supreme Court Rule Chapter 68, and emphasized by the mandate that each county create a Security and Facilities Committee. The purpose is to ensure the court system is proactive, geared toward prevention, not merely reactive, responding to violent, perhaps tragic, incidents. Regular Security and Facilities Committee meetings allow individuals to share security challenges, assess policies and procedures, and identify solutions to security deficiencies.
How would you recommend courthouse security be improved?
I recommend having a security plan that is actively acted upon by the local Security and Facilities Committee. The Court Safety and Security Conference workshop sessions and case studies provide tools and information to support effective Security and Facilities Committees.
Why is training essential to courthouse security?
Training is essential to courthouse security because one of the biggest challenges in courthouse security is complacency. Regular training keeps the issue "alive" and provides law enforcement and courthouse personnel with an opportunity to collaborate, review security plans, discuss concerns, and develop solutions to potential security problems. In addition, training offers a venue to learn from others and practice critical incident situations in a safe environment. The impact of the training will likely result in the prevention of an incident or a quick and effective response to an incident.
How is the Court Safety and Security Conference planned each year?
The conference is planned by an advisory committee representing county, state, and federal service providers including law enforcement and courts. The goal of the advisory committee is to plan an annual conference that provides practical concepts and ideas and addresses current court security concerns.
Who should attend this conference?
The annual training is intended for judges, court personnel, law enforcement, prosecutors, defense attorneys, county board members, and emergency management personnel. Counties are encouraged to send a team to the conference, including those represented on local Court Security and Facilities Committees.
How is the training delivered at this conference unique?
The training provided at the annual Court Safety and Security Conference is unique because topics are based on current trends and issues in the field. This includes "debriefings" on recent security incidents, case studies that examine successful court security practices, and practical recommendations from security practitioners.
To view a draft conference agenda and learn more about this year's conference, visit www.fvtc.edu/CSS.Back to The Third Branch current issue