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Is Your Facility Prepared For Future Challenges?
By William Sturgeon
Published: 01/18/2021

Flag statuteofliberty small I have been in the field of Criminal Justice for fifty years in one capacity or another. As I watched, with anger and disappointment, the attack on the U.S. Capitol, I thought to myself, “Is the field of criminal justice prepared for what appears to be a significant change in American society?” Then I thought back on the riots of this past summer. Did everyone involved with criminal justice realize back then that these riots were the seed of the changes occurring in our society that would foster such senseless violence?

This past summer, there were “No Go Zones”, where the police would not and/or could not go, Federal Court House/s being attacked, Molotov cocktails being thrown at buildings and at law enforcement, laser beams being aimed at the eyes of law enforcement to blind them, and more violence on and on. Then, there was/is “The Defund the Police Movement” representing the other end of the spectrum.

What has come out of a summer of violence appears to be a different type of criminal and that is the Anarchist! Anarchists will use and abuse the Constitutional freedoms guaranteed to all Americans to further their own cause/s even it means using violence and mayhem.

I believe that the level of violence displayed at the attack on the Capitol caught the Capitol Police completely off guard, and they appeared to be ill trained in crowd control. News videos clearly captured the Capitol Police’ inability to deal with a group of this magnitude that was using a high level of violence to accomplish their mission. I make the above observations after viewing a variety of news videos from both the left and right news media outlets.

To my fellow criminal justice professionals, especially those in corrections and the court systems, start preparing for new types of detainees, inmates, and defendants, now that our systems will have to deal with Anarchists! Law enforcement agencies have been adapting their tactics and methods throughout the summer and fall.

Correctional facilities and courthouses, in my opinion, need to start at the outside perimeters of their facilities and work inward. Many of the correctional facilities that I have visited, both domestically and internationally, have focused their perimeter security internally to prevent escapes. Now, the perimeter security has taken on a much larger dimension and a more complex roll of being the first line of defense by securing the perimeter from being breached by outside forces, as what happened at the Capitol, on Wednesday, January 6, 2021.

It was obvious, from viewing news videos, that once the U.S. Capitol’s perimeter was breached, the attackers, for a period of time, had free access to major areas of the Capitol. The very same thing could happen in a correctional facility or courthouse.

Many correctional facilities, especially local police lock-ups, sheriff’s offices and courthouses are located in urban areas which can complicate establishing perimeters, yet these facilities must establish perimeters to secure their facilities and the safety of their employees, as well as other detainees and defendants.

Here is a scenario that could take place; the courthouse is attacked and the perimeter holds. Arrests are made, and the detainees are transported to either a police lock-up or county jail. It is very plausible that the crowd will follow and try to free them or cause more damage to police lock-up or local jail. Scenarios like this one are examples of what was happening this summer in cities across America!

My experience has shown me that the most secure perimeters are made of the following:
  1. Policies and procedures that are clearly written and precise. Example: if this happens, the proper response is X. There needs to be sufficient flexibility for an officer to make a situational decision using the policies and procedures as a guide. (Example: Who can order the use of tear gas, who will dispense tear gas and what amount of tear gas should be deployed?)
    1. First and foremost, “Call for Help”. Let other agencies that make-up the facility’s Emergency/Contingency Plans know the facility is under attack.
    2. Provide as much up-to-date information as possible to responding agencies, such as number of attackers, types of weapons, location of the central point of attack, and where the facility wants the responders to provide help.
  2. A well-trained perimeter-security force, is vital. Think about it, these officers will be responsible for ensuring the security perimeter, thereby the entire facility. They must receive the most up-to-date training available.
    1. Personnel selected for these perimeter-security positions should be some of the best officers.
    2. Training should be intense and demanding.
    3. There should be specialized selection and training for First Line Supervisors.
  3. First Line Supervisors assigned to the perimeter must receive an up-to-date security briefing daily.
  4. The actual physical barrier should be made-up of the most up-to-date security materials. (Taking into consideration situations such as explosive material, vehicle crashing into the physical barrier, sniper activity). The most current and up-to-date technology such as video camera, recorders, listening devices, chemical detection meters, lighting, and lighting that can be used to blind an attacking force must be used.
  5. There should be detailed medical-evacuation plans for injured staff and attackers.
  6. There must be a detailed plan to secure areas in the facility should the perimeter be breached. This plan should include secondary internal perimeters that perimeter security staff and others can fall back to when and if given the order.
  7. The final fall back location/s should be identified and all staff should know where they are located. These locations should be shared with responding agencies as part of their emergency/contingency plans. All new employees should be made aware of these locations as part of their initial orientation.
Let us not confuse protestors and rioters/ Anarchists. The people who attacked the Capitol were Anarchists whose motives were clear. They wanted to attack the People’s Building, the symbol of democracy and freedom worldwide!

Correctional facilities must begin preparing to manage a new type of inmate who holds the belief that you represent the government that they are trying to replace and, therefore, correctional officials, and the courts, have no authority over them. They will resist in every way possible.

I suggest that correctional agencies consider a new and distinct classification for this population, that agencies develop new training programs for the staff who will be assigned to manage this population, have specialized training for the First-Line-Supervisors assigned to manage this population, and that they conduct daily searches of the facility to look for damage to the building, equipment, etc.

As I am writing this article, new and even more violent challenges are being planned. In the opinion of some people, if you are part of the criminal justice system, you are the enemy. Unfortunately, law enforcement officers across the United States have been taking the brunt of the Anarchist movement. The Capitol Police responded with courage and determination. Unfortunately, that was not enough to repel the mob.

I really believe that things will get worse before they get better. Many of these groups have had several months to perfect their skills, and some have received military and para-military training. To all my colleagues on the frontlines and to the decision makers, good luck and God bless!

Wm. Bill Sturgeon, MA, is the author of the forthcoming book titled, “Think Like A Terrorist”. He is a decorated Vietnam veteran who served with the 101st Airborne Division.

Visit the Bill Sturgeon page

Other articles by Sturgeon:


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