A heavily-redacted copy of the 2012 U.S. Marshals Service’s security review of the New Castle County Courthouse in Delaware rated the building’s security as "good," but implied that the number of Capitol Police patrolling the building was insufficient. The report also lacked details about the arrangement of the lobby where the February 11 shooting occurred. Although few details were available about possible security enhancements for the lobby, Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice Myron T. Steele denied Tuesday that the report included a recommendation to shorten the lobby by relocating the metal detectors.
Legal sibling publication Delaware Law Weekly obtained a copy of the Marshals’ report through a Freedom of Information Act request. The report was dated November 30, 2011, and included security recommendations to be enacted in 2012.
On February 11, Thomas Matusiewicz killed his former daughter-in-law, Christine Belford, and her friend, Laura Mulford, before killing himself in the New Castle County Courthouse’s lobby. At the time of the shooting, Thomas Matusiewicz’s son, David Matusiewicz, was engaged in a bitter custody fight with Belford.
Sources had previously told DLW that the report recommended increasing the Capitol Police’s presence at the New Castle County Courthouse, or NCCH, and a structural redesign of the lobby, which would include moving up the metal detectors.
The report does imply that the number of Capitol Police in the NCCH should be increased.
"The northern operation of the Capitol Police Department only has a total of [number redacted] positions assigned to the New Castle County Courthouse," the report said. "The operation in the courthouse currently has [number redacted]. By contrast, the security operations of the Boggs Federal Courthouse requires a [redacted]."
In a statement released Tuesday detailing his plans to ask the General Assembly for an increase in funding to improve court security, Steele denied that the structural redesign of the lobby included moving up the metal detectors.
Steele, while noting the need to reconfigure the lobby, denied that the Marshals’ report included a recommendation to relocate the metal detectors.
While speaking about a plan to improve the lobby’s configuration, he said, "That plan does not include the movement of the security screening stations closer to the building entrance doors. None of the security experts who evaluated the NCCH have recommended that change now or ever."
When asked via email if his comments are an explicit denial that the Marshals Service recommended moving the metal detectors, Steele said, "The press release could not be more clear and speaks for itself."
The Marshals’ report itself is silent on the matter. A section with the subhead "Internal Building Security" included photos of the entrance and metal detectors. However, the details above and below the photos are redacted. Another section with the subhead "Interior Security Recommendations" is entirely redacted.
In a spreadsheet attached to the report, the Marshals Service did note that the X-ray and metal detectors at the security checkpoint met "specified standards."
Despite the specific recommendations being redacted, the report did note that any internal security recommendations would be impacted by budget constraints.
"Recognizing the demands placed on state and local governments for resources and budgets, these recommendations should be considered along with all other operational decisions by the committee and prioritized for consideration by management," the report said.
As previously reported by DLW, the Marshals Service reviewed judges’ chambers at the courthouse and did make recommendations to enhance security measures within those chambers. However, those specific recommendations are also redacted.
The Marshals Service also reviewed the building’s exterior, utility and mechanical areas, courtrooms, offices accepting cash payments, the public’s parking lot, a parking lot reserved for judges and an outside loading dock. While the majority of the report’s content is redacted, the report was complimentary that barriers were placed in front of the building to prevent a vehicle from causing harm by driving upon the entrance. The Marshals Service also noted that all shrubs, trees and vegetation growth was removed from the planters in front of the building.
"This allows for clear sight lines for law enforcement and security personnel and the inability of anyone to hide paraphernalia or other items in the surrounding locations," the report said. "This definitely enhances the perimeter security in front of the courthouse."
Overall, the Marshals’ report rated the NCCH’s security systems as "good."
"The New Castle County Courthouse has good security systems in place," the Marshals Service wrote in the report. The good rating appears in a section of the report summarizing the building’s security rating. In addition, the report described the NCCH’s security camera system as "high quality" with "more than adequate number of cameras which show all critical areas of the building."
For more coverage, see the April 24 edition of Delaware Law Weekly.