Handling High Profile Cases

While the public is fascinated by the news coverage, handling related court security is a tremendous challenge.


Ingress/Egress

Designate specific deputies or officers to assist with the ingress and egress of the affected parties. For security considerations, you must evaluate all of the possible entrances and exits of the Courthouse. Weapons screening requirements at all Courthouses remain in place, and all parties who enter the Courthouse must pass through the search portal. Once you designate a path of travel for the high profile individual, ensure the designated media area is nearby.

Often celebrities hire their own private security to escort them to and from court. Personal security shall not be allowed to be armed in the Courthouse even if they have a concealed weapons permit. They need to check their weapons at the screening area and retrieve them when exiting the Courthouse. Remember, deputies and court officers are responsible for security at the Courthouse, no one else.

Communicate

Vital to the success of these operations is good communication between court administrators, sheriff's deputies, the high profile defendant/plaintiff, and the news media. Confirming arrival and departure times and specifying where to enter and exit the Courthouse for the high profile individual is paramount.

During a recent court hearing for an extremely well known female pop star at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles, the pop star was very uncooperative as to alerting deputies when and where she would be arriving at court. She refused to comply with directions, which created significant difficulties for deputies due to the large crowds, massive media presence and unruly paparazzi. Due to the chaos that transpired, as the pop star left the courthouse, she was overwhelmed by a throng of paparazzi and fans, and a member of the sheriff's department was injured in an effort to prevent injuries to others.

When you have a high profile case pending, call a meeting with everyone involved with security. This includes the Judicial Officer, Court Administrator, and Public Information Officer. The local police agency should also be included as this will have a major impact on neighborhood traffic on adjacent streets and the courthouse perimeter.

Judiciary Security

High profile cases often have consequences for the judicial officer. Therefore, security arrangements for the judge involved in the case is often a good idea. During a former football star's murder trial, the judge himself became an unintended celebrity, and had difficulty even going to the market without being recognized and approached by members of the public. Another judge who handled the sentencing of a pop culture celebrity received thousands of emails and internet blogs, some of which were not positive. Discuss with the judicial officer options such as additional patrol checks, 24 hour security, or other protective services you are able to provide.

Be Prepared

Make sure to have an operations plan detailing the duties of everyone who is involved. These types of cases can occur very quickly, so be prepared. You don't have to wait for a high profile case in your courthouse to prepare for it. You can always have a general plan ready in advance for each courthouse. As always, you don't have to get ready, if you are ready.

About The Authors:
Sergeant Steve Wheatcroft is a 30 year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, with 20 years of experience with the Judicial Services Unit of the Court Services Division. Captain Mike Parker is a 25 year veteran and unit commander of the Sheriff's Headquarters Bureau, which includes media relations. For more information visit www.lasd.org.



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