December 23, 2012    /    by

After Newtown: Should Government Security Also Change?

As we head into the heart of the holiday season, our thoughts and prayers still turn towards the families and devastated communities following the horrible events in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012.

As we head into the heart of the holiday season, our thoughts and prayers still turn towards the families and devastated communities following the horrible events in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012.

As expressed so well in the comforting speech by President Obama, our hearts go out to everyone impacted.

“… Here in Newtown, I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation. I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts.

I can only hope it helps for you to know that you're not alone in your grief, that our world, too, has been torn apart, that all across this land of ours, we have wept with you. We've pulled our children tight.

And you must know that whatever measure of comfort we can provide, we will provide. Whatever portion of sadness that we can share with you to ease this heavy load, we will gladly bear it. Newtown, you are not alone….”

Since that speech, there has been a steady stream of articles discussing various aspects of gun violence and the need for better school security following the tragic events in Connecticut. The stories of the families and children have dominated the news, as they should. But as we head into 2013, many are starting to ask about next steps.

Everyone wants to know: Can we make our schools safe? How far should we go towards metal detectors, armed guards and more?

 What seems different is that this new discussion is occurring regarding schools that were considered safe havens by many. Few thought Newtown, a quiet community, would become a target. For this reason and many others, I suspect real change is coming for school security across America.

 But I’d like to pose a related question: what about local and state government buildings? Is new or added security needed for these workplaces as well? How about private companies? How will they react?

Change After 9/11

I remember the changes that occurred in Michigan after 9/11. We went from virtually no physical security in state office buildings to guards, cameras and much more over the past decade. Security changes were seen all over the nation from airports to subways to federal government buildings. 

 Earlier this year, The New York Times asked: How resilient is post-9/11 America? Here’s an excerpt:

“Federal law enforcement and homeland security experts are advising corporate America to build better security into their business practices — to safeguard their goods and services, to recover from attack and, from the companies’ perspective, to boost their brand. ‘When you think of El Al, it’s not for on-time performance, it’s that you’re safe,’ said a senior law enforcement official, referring to the Israeli airline renowned for its security procedures.”

There is little doubt that many things have already changed regarding state and local government building security. Emergency Management Divisions around the nation are familiar with raising threat levels and the readiness state for state emergencies of all types. 

Is Workplace Violence on the Agenda?

In addition, a new level of attention has been directed towards workplace violence. Here’s an excerpt from the US Department of Labor website:

“Nearly 2 million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence each year. Unfortunately, many more cases go unreported. The truth is, workplace violence can strike anywhere, anytime, and no one is immune. Research has identified factors that may increase the risk of violence for some workers at certain worksites. Such factors include exchanging money with the public and working with volatile, unstable people. Working alone or in isolated areas may also contribute to the potential for violence. Providing services and care, and working where alcohol is served may also impact the likelihood of violence. Additionally, time of day and location of work, such as working late at night or in areas with high crime rates, are also risk factors that should be considered when addressing issues of workplace violence. Among those with higher risk are workers who exchange money with the public, delivery drivers, healthcare professionals, public service workers, customer service agents, law enforcement personnel, and those who work alone or in small groups.”

Moving Forward

As all of the attention (rightfully) addresses school security following Newtown, we need to remember that schools are only one part of this vital discussion in America. How much is too much? Will we lose our national character by over-reacting? What about mental illness and other related topics that can lead to tragic events such as this?

At the same time, we need to be addressing a much wider list of potential government security threats – from cyberattacks to critical infrastructure protection. No doubt, the schools will certainly come first, as we struggle with the tough questions regarding what we can afford.

What are your thoughts on physical security topics at school and work as we head into 2013?