Protection for Elected Officials, times are a changing

Since this was published members of Congress have canceled public appearances, meetings, and events across the United States. All because they said there were security concerns. No elected official should be afraid to do their job and meet with constituents.  At ISA we stand ready to provide the training or services needed to protect your elected representatives, democracy can’t survive if those who believe in it are afraid to come out of hiding.  

Matthew Parker CEO, ISA

Published on June 28, 2017

With the June 14th shooting of Steve Scalise, the majority whip of the House of Representatives on an Alexandria Virginia ball field, the security, or lack thereof, of our elected officials has again been questioned.  This is not the first time a member of Congress has been shot, Gabrielle Gifford’s was attacked on January 8, 2011. She was shot in the head outside a grocery store in Casas Adobes, Arizona during an open-air event.

But what was different here was that Congressman Scalise’s Capitol Police security detail was present, and they exchanged fire with the gunman stopping further carnage.  Surprisingly in the aftermath of the attack, many members of Congress stated they did not want additional security as they felt it would prevent them from meeting with constituents, although they do acknowledge security is a concern.  One member, Massachusetts Congressman Democrat Michael E. Capuano, said during an interview with Boston Herald Radio “I will refuse and I think most will refuse to live in a glass house where we are untouchable,” “I don’t think that’s appropriate.” He was responding to the question of having security assigned to him.

I can’t blame Congressman Capuano and the other members for feeling this way, there is an uneducated perception that a security detail is somehow restrictive, and may prevent an elected official from “getting out with the voters”.

Another issue raised by many is the demeanor of the security assigned to an official, their very presence and stern nature dissuade people from approaching their representative.  Another factor is the conduct of security when dealing with the public. In fact look no further than the August 17, 2011 article entitled “Bachmann’s bouncers: Unnecessary roughness” by Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin, (http://www.politico.com/story/2011/08/bachmanns-bouncers-unnecessary-roughness-061598) which chronicles the very behavior officials don’t want to be associated with.

But not all members are against increased security measures, in fact, today in the article “House members want federal funds now to hire personal security” By Lindsay Wise http://www.sacbee.com/latest-news/article158308109.html   It’s reported “House of Representatives lawmakers want $25,000 each to hire private security right away to protect them in their home districts”  

I have been a vocal critic of the lack of security for elected officials, in fact, our dignitary and executive protection training program was specifically designed to train local and state police to provide the very security that is now just being recognized as essential. And I was ecstatic to read in the article quote “Representatives could use the money to pay for an off-duty police officer or private security guard at town halls, fish fries, meet-and-greets or other public events in their districts”.

But I must return to address the hesitation of some members, and the refusal of others, to consider increased security measures because of the reasons I have previously mentioned.

To the respected and honorable members of Congress with reservations about having a detail for public events, and during times of increased threat, times like today with the healthcare legislation and the emotions of anger it has brought with it.

 If your security detail is properly trained you will be able to continue your work uninterrupted, you can meet with constituents, hold town hall meetings, and do the work you were sent to Washington to do. When you return home to your district your detail can be an asset assisting with transportation arrangements, coordinating with outside agencies, and providing you with enhanced communications.

In 2011 Independent Security Advisors was invited by Robert Mueck, the then Director of the University of Maryland Public Safety Academy to train local and state police in dignitary and executive protection, expressly for the security of elected officials in Maryland and adjacent states.  We trained over two hundred + officers, deputies and state troopers from as far as California, and another 20 federal agents, officers or security personnel. This was offered free, no charge, absent cost, because we believed elected officials were under greater threat than ever before, and law enforcement needed the skills to address these new and growing threats. Shortly thereafter we submitted our program for state accreditation with the Maryland Police Training Commission so these officers received in-service credit.     

Since then our program has been accredited in six states, received college recognition and is approved for continuing education for private security. We have trained law enforcement and private security across the country at costs well below the national average, and I can tell you categorically and without hesitation, your security detail can become trusted members of your team.

 Now I would caution you on using private security, as there is no national standard for training or conduct. See the aforementioned article Bachmann’s bouncers to understand the risks of using those type of services. But here again, with proper training and vetting, even private security can be a reasonable measure. The cost and liability of using private security is higher, but many in the private security or executive protection field are true professionals with unquestioned credentials and reputations.  A properly vetted and staffed private detail with these type agents brings a level of service to rival the federal agencies.

  But, I would submit to you there is an unconsidered option, and untapped resource available for providing security when you return home. Many police departments have an auxiliary or reserve made up of officers who are required to serve 20 or more hours a month on duty. I believe if properly trained that group of officers would be a perfect answer for the security of elected officials returning home. For jurisdictions without such a reserve force, I would recommend retired and former officers form a detail under the police department as “special officers or security”

Rep Kevin Yoder of Kansas is the chairman of the subcommittee writing the security budget legislation, and he points out “Some members want security details to follow lawmakers wherever they go”  Now that type of security is problematic as there are different legal and regulatory requirements as you cross state lines, and the Capitol Police have jurisdiction when members are in DC. But this too is something that can be addressed with proper and accredited training, and if the Capital Police were to be given oversight of these security agents within the DC region.     

Rep Kevin Yoder notes “the cost for 24-hour personal security guards for all 535 lawmakers in Congress would be prohibitive”,´ and he follows that observation with, quote  “and could make them less accessible to voters”.

Yes and no. If reserve officers are used the costs are shared with the police departments, and the budget allocated for security would be more than enough to compensate the departments as they were never expecting the funds initially. Secondly, private security if properly trained, and used in accordance with the threat assessment may not need to be present 24 hours a day.

As for quote, “make them less accessible to voters”, Rep Kevin Yoder goes on to say” It puts up barriers between the public and members of Congress”, and quote “Lawmakers need to be responsive to the people they represent”, “a wall of security would complicate that’

Sir, with proper training that is minimized, we know how to properly protect you and give you the space you need to do your job. In fact, your detail can facilitate your move to and from meetings, and allow you unfettered access to your constituents if given the time to properly advance and prepare a location.

I urge members of Congress to set aside your preconceived bias towards personal security and heed the advice of the Sergeant of Arms and Capitol Police. Have your district office work with the state and local police, see what training and resources they need to support you, and work closely with the private sector, we have training and resources available to help your local and state police.

Matthew Parker

CEO, Independent Security Advisors

mparker@inddps.com

 

References:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/15/politics/congress-money-security-gop-baseball/  

http://thehill.com/capital-living/cover-stories/295415-lawmaker-security  

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/06/scalise-shooting-congress-senate/530277/  

http://www.latimes.com/politics/washington/la-na-essential-washington-updates-members-of-congress-face-death-threats-1497471038-htmlstory.html    

http://www.bostonherald.com/news/columnists/2017/06/mass_congressmen_eschew_more_security

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