by Stevan P. Layne, CPP, CIPM, CIPI
There has been considerable discussion and obvious concern about the controversial issue surrounding package inspections at the public entries of our cultural institutions. Much of the discussion is around the use of metal detection or x-ray devices at points of entry. In our considerable contacts with a number of institutions, the issue of package inspection is often on the table. The response has on occasion been very positive, sometimes negative, based on cost of the process, lack of manpower, or concern over public relations.
Package inspection may, but does not HAVE TO involve metal detection. The first hurdle to overcome in acquiring the institution's full support, both financially and philosophically, is the practice of performing a package inspection or bag check and an individual screening for everyone entering the institution. The objective is to present a positive image - a strong visible deterrent to bringing weapons, explosives, or contraband onto the property. We do not believe that to date, "active shooters" involved in documented attacks, have been checked upon entering a building, or have been subject to proper screening processes.
Bag checks and entry screening should be performed by knowledgeable personnel, specially trained for greeting and screening visitors and staff. It may include video surveillance at the inspection point, and should be conducted by at least two officers or staff members - one to control the queue, the other to perform the inspection. A written plan, with detailed instructions, needs to be developed before initiating the process, outlining how to conduct the inspection, and what to do if prohibited items are found. A supervisor must be available to respond to violations. Coordination with local police should be completed in advance, particularly with regard to dealing with the discovery of weapons during an inspection.
The determination of what type of equipment to utilize, where to place the inspection station, how to staff, train, and monitor the process must all be completed prior to initiation. There are several alternatives to specialized equipment to aid in the screening, including walk-through arches, hand-held scanners, electronic turnstiles, and others. Keep in mind that each process takes a certain amount of time, and heavy pedestrian traffic, especially during opening hours, causes back-ups in waiting lines. Waiting periods beyond 15 minutes should be avoided. It should also be understood, that some environments are just not conducive to conducting an inspection. There must be a controlled entry point or points for this to be accomplished. At a minimum, bag checks policies should be in place to allow for spot checks of visitors and staff.
Only you can determine if the cost to equip, staff, train, and supervise a proper screening process is worth the return, and how such practices can reasonably contribute to safe operations and life safety for staff and visitors. Classes are available in set-up, training, equipping, and monitoring, through IFCPP. Contact info@IFCPP.org for additional information.