By G.F. Guercio, Contributing Editor
“Inmate Escapes from Cell, Punches Officer in Courtroom” announced a New York Post headline July 18, 2017. A similar headline and article about the incident appeared in the Daily News. While details vary as to whether the defendant punched his way out or a cell was left open, the ensuing melee reads the same: the inmate ran into a courtroom, and using an attorney as a shield, punched an officer before he was subdued. The final outcome: Officers with bruises and one broken ankle.
The harshest response came from New York State Supreme Court Officers Union President Patrick Cullen who calls the incident "…a continued negligence on the part of the Department of Correction to deliver inmates safely to court.…"
One can only hope the incident doesn’t become a “blame game” but instead a chance to say “how can we keep this from happening again?” There are physical resources out there—in addition to training and policy changes—that can help. From heavy-duty to specialty restraints, detectors that screen for hidden blades, and panic alarms that are transportable to security cameras that can be viewed from iPads, as well as bullet-resistant frames for when a shot can’t be stopped—they offer the latest to court security officers.
“If a guy is in for life, he has no reason not to try to hurt someone or get away or both,” says Brad Myers, owner and president of Myers Enterprises, Inc., maker of Stun-Cuff. He tells of a detainee who kept acting up as he was being readied for trial. “So they demonstrated the Stun-Cuff, you just hit the button—you see and hear the electric current—the detainee didn’t give them any trouble. That’s the beauty of this; you rarely have to activate it. Just the demonstration and wearing it is the biggest deterrent.
“Stun-Cuff is used in courts a lot,” he says, often during trial the offender has to appear innocent so no visible means of restraint can be seen. “Stun-Cuff is worn under the pant leg so if the offender jumps up to grab the judge, the officer can activate the device and it puts him down on the ground.”
It’s a great deterrent because you demonstrate before you put it on, he reiterates. “When you activate the device it contracts the muscle in the leg so it pulls the foot up to the rear.” He says there has never been any litigation which he attributes to the forewarning it sends and its accountability. It is a wireless unit so the time and date it was fired can easily be pulled up. And Myers points out: “The data port will coincide with them trying to escape, fight, or go after someone.”
Glenn Newby, inmate transport product manager for Bob Barker, says they have a transport kit that is applicable for a variety of situations. It’s a build-your-own transport kit that covers restraint needs in a convenient carrying case. He suggests: “Just like an admission kit, choose items from the chart to make a custom Transport Kit that fits your facility's needs.”
Along with regular restraints, users can customize which products are included in the kit. “The color-coated handcuffs and leg irons are a great way to keep track of the restraints and identify prisoners; the disposable cuffs are low-cost alternative to handcuffs.” The transport hood helps deter biting and spitting, and the Quick Cuff Temporary Restraining Device can be used as a single cuff, doubled locked, ankle restraints or to secure to a chair arm. The orange transport bag has a side zipper for storing handcuff keys, rescue tool, small items, etc., and a removable shoulder strap.
For those times you want eyes on whatever is happening as the inmate is delivered to the courtroom, video surveillance is key. In an installation, four Apple iPad devices were configured for the Sheriff, Undersheriff, and shift supervisors at the Judicial Center and Adult Detention Facility in Butler County Kansas to access the video surveillance system remotely. “Equipping our shift supervisors with iPads gave them the flexibility to be away from their desk and interact with deputies working in the field,” says Sheriff Kelly Herzet. “The iPads are set up to access the video surveillance systems at both facilities and can be used anywhere there’s Wi-Fi access.”
Several years ago, the Sheriff’s Office, which provides security at the Judicial Center and operates the Adult Detention Facility, had a system that began to show its age. Security specialist 4PC, based in Augusta, Kansas, replaced the analog cameras with 1080p equIP series cameras and pan tilt zoom cameras, doubling the facilities’ monitoring capabilities, and installed three MAXPRO NVRs (network video recorders) from Honeywell to store video. The digital storage allows the deputies to pull up video footage quickly and remotely, if needed.
“From the security desk our deputies can see who is entering and leaving the building from multiple access points and follow individuals of interest throughout the courthouse,” says Sheriff Herzet. At the Adult Detention Facility deputies are able to quickly assess an incident, identify any potential dangers and respond to the scene with a game plan. “Previously, we identified people in the footage from the color of their clothes and physical mannerisms,” he says.”Now with the new high-definition cameras we can see faces clearly and zoom in on objects so finely as to read handwritten words on a piece of paper.”
At times the ability to see clearly what is going on extends past clothing and paper to what lies beneath—what is possibly hidden on an inmate’s person. To overcome these hidden obstacles, Luca Cacioli, director of Operations, CEIA USA, details several products and functions. “The CEIA HI-PE Plus Walk-Through Metal Detector is affordable, with superior performance to detect guns, knives and cell phones.
“The CEIA SMD600 Plus Walk-Through Metal Detector detects the smallest, most challenging threats and is NIJ Standard compliant. The CEIA PD240 Hand-Held Metal Detector provides a wide search area that combines high reliability with advanced detection and operator signaling features, indoor and outdoor operations with floor rebar rejection. The CEIA Magneto Static Detector (MSD) is a highly portable detector that targets concealed cell phones and other ferrous threats and provides the highest detection capabilities in the industry.
“Once you set a CEIA metal detector to a certain security level we assure the detector meets or exceeds the security standard that corresponds to that security level,” Cacioli asserts. Metal detectors need to work in a variety of locations that present unique challenges, he furthers. Electrical and mechanical interferences can disrupt screening operations as they are seen as noise by the metal detectors. “CEIA metal detectors have built-in functions to recognize these noises and filter them without affecting screening operations.”
And in the cases where an inmate is aided, or wrestles a weapon, there are several options. Cassie Schlosser, southeastern representative, Insulgard Security Products, notes that even with all the improvements, security can be breached, which explains the increased demand for ballistic protection within the courtrooms. “We recommend armoring the judges' benches, witness and clerk boxes with ballistic-lined millwork utilizing bullet-resistant fiberglass panels.
Insulgard provides rigid sheets of woven fiberglass that can be retrofitted and attached to existing courtroom furniture, she says, “or we can provide the actual millwork for installation into a new courtroom. In some instances, we have received requests to add a custom barrier on top of the judge's bench to allow for protection above and below the bench, although this is rare. We have installed custom doors and windows at the judges' chambers on some occasions.” Products include windows, doors, glazing, framing, counterline barrier systems, fiberglass armor and custom millwork assemblies.
In addition, to alert that an inmate has a weapon or has escaped, the Guardian solution provides numerous methods of alarm delivery including into a manned security center, to LED signs, as a text message, to emails, and even to two-way pagers on the Guardian system, says CEO, Craig Badrick, Turn-key Technologies, Inc. (TTI).
“Being a completely wireless solution, the Guardian system provides protection regardless of where you are in a facility,” says Badrick. “No longer is the duress protection available only in static locations such as under a desk or on a wall, the Guardian solution allows complete mobility as the small wireless duress fob is kept on the staff member and is always within reach.” The man-down alarm will raise an alert even if the user is incapacitated and unable to manually raise an alarm.
TTI’s Guardian solution is using the newest innovations in wireless technology to create a self-organizing, self-healing wireless network, Badrick adds, which protects staff anywhere they roam, including outdoors, if required.
Requirements to safeguard a courthouse during an inmate court appearance have become a call to action, especially in the light of violent incidents such as the one that made headlines this past summer. While this incident ended with relatively minor injuries, mobilizing your security options can make all the difference in keeping judges, juries and court staff secure. J
For more information:
Turn-key Technologies, Inc., 732.553.9100, www.turn-keytechnologies.com/guardian-security-lone-worker-alarm
Insulgard Security Products, 800.624.6315, www.insulgard.com
Stun-Cuff by Myers Enterprises, Inc., 303.986.0803 - www.stun-cuff.com
CEIA USA, (888) 532-2342, www.ceia-usa.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Honeywell Security Products Americas, 800.323.4576, www.honeywell.com/security
Bob Barker, 800.334.9880, www.bobbarker.com