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07-01-06, 12:17 PM #1
But they will not let us carry our guns into court...
Courthouse security misses concealed guns in test
By Larry Keller
In a span of an hour, a sheriff's deputy posing as a civilian walked past security screeners at two county courthouses while carrying a concealed gun.
The undercover deputy got past employees of the private security company even though walk-through and handheld electronic devices beeped, alerting workers to a possible problem.
The incidents occurred June 14 at the south county satellite courthouse in Delray Beach and the north county courthouse in Palm Beach Gardens.
In a third attempt that day, a security guard at the satellite courthouse at the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office headquarters found the concealed gun.
Apparently no tests were done at the central courthouse in downtown West Palm Beach or the Belle Glade satellite courthouse.
The county contracts with New Orleans-based Weiser Security to provide screening at the courthouses and other security services at county facilities, including libraries, parks and the offices of the state attorney and the public defender.
The two-year contract for up to $6 million expires in November.
The sheriff's office conducts periodic tests to see whether contraband can be slipped past the security guards. Starting pay for screeners is a little more than $9.50 an hour, county officials say.
"As far as their performance, we've been quite happy with them," said Mark Swanson, the county's chief security supervisor and its liaison with Weiser. Corrective action has been taken in the wake of the two security breaches, he said, declining to elaborate.
"We are testing on a continuing basis," said sheriff's Capt. Frank DeMario, who oversees courthouse security. "If there are problems, we're going to take care of them."
He declined to be more specific, citing security concerns. A Weiser employee said the company would have no comment.
Courthouse security became a more urgent matter after a jail inmate in Atlanta shot and killed a judge and two other people inside and outside a courthouse in March 2005. Last month, a judge in Reno, Nev., was shot and wounded while standing at a third-floor window, but the shot came from outside the courthouse.
According to a sheriff's office memo, this is what happened on June 14:
Deputy John Gannotti and a second deputy, both dressed in civilian clothes, visited the sheriff's office building on Gun Club Road in suburban West Palm Beach. Gannotti concealed an unloaded gun in his left sock.
After emptying his pockets, Gannotti walked through the scanner, which beeped. The security guard then used a handheld wand that produced a beeping sound around Gannotti's ankle.
When the guard asked the deputy to lift his pants leg, Gannotti did so on the gun-free ankle. The guard asked to see his other ankle and detected the gun.
"The guard did an outstanding job of probing until he felt his job was complete," the memo concluded.
At the south county courthouse, Gannotti hid the gun behind his belt buckle. After the walk-through scanner beeped, the guard searched him with the wand and let him continue. When the guard was shown the gun, he said he had not heard the wand beep. Gannotti said he heard it.
Gannotti's last stop, the north county courthouse, was under the same scenario as the Delray Beach courthouse. The guard again said he hadn't heard the wand beep. Gannotti and the second deputy said they heard it.
Judges said they were concerned about the security breaches but were heartened by the fact that they were detected.
"We're glad the sheriff checked the integrity of our courthouse security system," Chief Judge Kathleen Kroll said. "Of course it concerns us that any weapon got through, but I'm sure the sheriff will work with us in improving the checkpoints."
Circuit Judge William Berger, the administrative judge at the south county courthouse, said he was unaware that a gun-toting deputy had made it through security.
"I'm very concerned. I'm very disturbed," Berger said.
Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath, the administrative judge at the Palm Beach Gardens courthouse, said he was aware of the security breach.
"It has been reported to the appropriate people to perhaps upgrade the training," he said. "It did cause me concern. I'm worried about the safety of the people in this building."
Colbath said he was encouraged that the sheriff's office regularly tests courthouse security. "Nothing is ever perfect," he said. "The more you test, the more you can find the weak links in it."In law enforcement, the customer is ALWAYS wrong.
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07-01-06, 01:41 PM #2
That reminds me of going to the State Fair of Texas a couple of years ago. Private security screeners with handheld wands were dancing all around, and you could beeps going off but couldn't tell which wand it was coming from.
The screener thought I was clean and motioned for me to go through, so I held up my CHL card. he looked puzzled for a moment, then scanned my waistband again, where I had a full-size 9mm HS2000... He found it on the 2nd try and motioned me through again.
I felt much safer at the fair that day
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