Friday, January 30, 2015

Enhancing Security for Board of Education Meetings

The following letter was sent to the WCPS Board of Education and Superintendent on January 30, 2015, in response to recent concerns expressed by Board of Education member Mike Guessford. The letter is republished in its entirety.

To the Board of Education and Superintendent,
I am writing in response to recent concerns by Board of Education member Mike Guessford with regard to Board of Education meeting security, which was currently published in the Herald Mail.
I was wondering if Mr. Guessford could perhaps clarify what his concerns are? Have there been actual threats against Board of Education members?
Education is very important, and some members of the community can be quite passionate about education issues. I would like to encourage the board to make sure that any enhanced security controls do not interfere with residents right to express their views and participate in the meeting.
As a cyber security consultant, I am also required to learn physical security measures, in order to properly secure data centers, office spaces, etc. I believe that there are two deterrent controls which can be implemented at minimal cost to satisfy Mr. Guessford's concerns, as I understand them currently.
For those not familiar, deterrent controls are security controls designed to deter, but not prevent, a security incident or violation. A common deterrent control we're all very aware of is speed cameras, which deter, but not prevent, people from speeding.
The first deterrent control I would recommend is a simple pole and tape barrier between board of education members and those seated in the room. You've probably seen these barriers at movie theaters.  These barriers do nothing to actually stop someone from going past them, but provide a reminder that people should not pass the barrier unless authorized.  An example of such a barrier is here:
The second deterrent control I would recommend is the presence of an unarmed security guard or off-duty police officer next to the barrier I mentioned above. The mere presence of a security guard or off-duty officer will have an excellent deterrence effect. However, once again, it is important that this guard or off-duty officer not prevent residents from expressing their views or participating in the meeting, as long as they remain on the correct side of the barrier tape. Should they cross the barrier tape uninvited, then that would of course be grounds for removal from the building.
Also, I noted that in the Herald Mail article, active shooter training is not mentioned. I have to strongly encourage active shooter training. I would recommend you watch this video of a New Hope council meeting to see how dangerous an active shooter situation can be to untrained individuals. In the video, the council members are told multiple times to stay down, because they had no idea how to react. Fortunately no-one was injured.
I'd be happy to discuss this issue further with you all. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me.
Ken Buckler
Note: After further review the Herald Mail article does mention Active Shooter training is not being considered. This letter was originally intended to state that active shooter training should be considered, contrary to what was mentioned in the original Herald Mail article. This was an editorial error. However, the letter above will remain as-is, as this was what was sent to WCPS and the Board of Education.

Ken Buckler is the editor of the WashCo Chronicle