Friday, April 29, 2011

Chaos or Order: Police Expert View on Casey Anthony Trial Security

As a police expert, I see large problems looming for local law enforcement officials when the Casey Anthony circus, er, murder trial commences on May 9 here in my home town of Orlando, FL. While many are focusing on the recent court motions and rulings, officials with the Orange County Sheriff's Office (the law enforcement agency charged with court security), the Orlando Police Department, and others are meeting behind closed doors working out the strategies and contingency plans. Of course, the Sheriff's Office well knows the case itself as they have been the lead agency in the Caylee Anthony case investigation from the start.

Many have lamented the fact that large gobs of resources will be taken from other areas of local law enforcement especially the Sheriff's Office. While that is true, I don't believe that the Orange County Sheriff's Office has much choice. While I understand the torment on the part of other victims of crime who don't garner the same level of attention, I appreciate the fact that the Sheriff's Office has to handle the situations they are presented.

It is the same with 911. They can't tell someone that they can't respond because no one is available. When it comes to matters of public safety, law enforcement has to be present to take care of the potential or existing danger. When they do run to those 911 calls, or the issues surrounding the Casey Anthony trial, other areas do get less attention. If it's anybody's fault, it's Casey Anthony's (if she does end up being found guilty).

The Issues

Certainly there is the front door security, but there are also a number of other concerns that few have contemplated, but that the law enforcement folks are likely pondering. As a former police chief and who has handled court security issues, I see a plethora of issues to be tackled. I am also certainly familiar with the dynamics of the case having done countless Casey Anthony media interviews.

Precedent situations include venues such as the Michael Jackson and O.J. Simpson trials. Those who watched those legal proceedings know full well that order and chaos are not far apart especially when all the attendant issues are not planned for.

Courthouse Security

The obvious one, courtroom and courthouse front door security is clearly the first line of defense and where a considerable amount of resources will be expended. The court room will be packed with friends and family from both sides, as well as the hordes of media that will be descending on Orlando. Judge Belvin Perry has already devised a system for picking people who are vying for the limited supply of seats at the trial

While Orlando is used to being host to a bevy of high profile celebs, the trial will bring star news people to the land of Disney. The presence of those folks will bring its own set of security concerns. At a minimum, patrol officers and deputy sheriffs will surely be responding to incidents big and small involving these stars.


Casey Anthony's unique form of celebrity has already created a rabid group of defenders and detractors. Some of those folks are a little on the, shall we say, mentally unhinged end of the spectrum, and will send notes of varying severity of threats to the various players in this trial. The recipients would include members of the prosecution and defense teams (including lightning rod Jose Baez), Judge Belvin Perry, Casey, Cindy, George, and Lee Anthony, as well as members of the media who may be perceived as not reporting the case as someone would wish them to.

Whomever the target, law enforcement (and it will fall mostly to Sheriff Jerry Demings' Orange County Sheriff's Office) will have to conduct a threat assessment to determine the veracity and seriousness of the note writer. That will take resources and is no simple task.

Just ask the United States Secret Service and its special agents who have serious expertise in evaluating potential threats to the President, Vice President, and other dignitaries. Closer to the targets that are present in this case, the United States Marshals Service has long had a specialty of protecting federal judges and providing courthouse security. And probably no agency has more experience with celebrity and high profile trials than the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office in California.

Threat assessment and target protection is not an endeavor for the ill-trained or run of the mill law enforcer. Experienced, seasoned investigators will be put on the case.

When I served in a Sheriff's Office Courthouse Division, I investigated threat notes sent to judges. These were clearly mentally unbalanced individuals penning the notes. Their apparent mental illness makes them no less a threat to the protected person.


Handling the influx of vehicles into downtown Orlando is going to be another headache that falls on the shoulders of law enforcement. Not only will the additional cars pose an issue, but the presence of the media will bring its own set of problems. Large satellite live trucks will have to find places to park that afford convenient access to the courthouse, but don’t impede the flow of traffic. Additionally, some media types will be coming with mobile homes in tow to house them during the two month trial. Those also will have to be parked somewhere that works for all concerned.

Jury Security

And then there is the matter of the jury. Much like the prosecution, defense, and Anthony family protectees, there will be the additional potential targets in the jurors and alternate jurors. Like most judges, Judge Perry will look to not give a reason to be overturned on appeal. Judges hate to be overturned, so he is going to want to keep people away from them including particularly aggressive members of the media or the public.

To its credit, the Orange County Sheriff's Office is a professional agency with over 3,000 employees. It is no stranger to high profile cases or public scrutiny. They will be on the international stage as the world will watch all aspects of the trail very carefully. I fully expect that they will rise to the challenge with perhaps a few understandable glitches along the way.

More on the Casey Anthony case can be found at: - Media