Thursday, January 19, 2012


In just about every place I go as an attorney, I have to navigate through some type of security.  Depending on the place, the officers can be local, state, or federal employees, or, they may even be contracted employees of a private security firm.

Sometimes, it's the same people I have seen before, some have been seeing me for over a decade. They get to know me, and understand why I am there. They do their job well and I do mine.

Other times, the teams rotate, and there's no telling who will be there at the security post.  I dread seeing new officers. It's not personal, but I know that it's going to take a while.

Recently, that has been the story in one of the buildings I frequent. The new crew routinely backs the line up for 15-20 minutes, taking forever to screen everyone.  There are four security officers stationed at one metal detector.  One runs the xray machine, one has the magnetic wand, and the other two yell at us.

Keep your hands visible, don't take anything out of your pockets (except our hands, I presume).  Stand here, don't stand there, move up, back off,  don't talk, speak up, don't use your cell phone...

And yet, I'm amused at the misguided hypervigilance I see. More often than not, they are either talking to each other, looking at whoever is getting yelled at, or otherwise preoccupied with looking like they're on post. It's very easy, after some brief observation, to spot the weaknesses.  It's all theater. It's well intentioned, perhaps, but still theater.  We're fooled into thinking that being loud, armed, and large in number is enough to serve as a deterrent.

True vigilance is not necessarily loud or even always visible.  True vigilance begins in the mind.  As long as the officers are content with griping about their supervisors, puffing out their chests, and yelling stock phrases, no true "securing" will be done.  The pictures will look good, the list will be checked, and checks will be written.  But it's all an act, serving only to give the illusion of security.

We haven't actually made anything any safer.  What we have done, by rule or statute, is placed our well-being in the hands of those who at times care more about their authority than their duty.  In the end, if I depend on them to keep me secure, I am in trouble.

So, what to do?  Well, I have to follow orders if I'm going to get in. Fine. But if the officers are more about style than substance, then I just can't respect the work they are doing.

They can play their games. I'll watch.

Vigilance begins in the mind



ArmedBarrister said...

" more about their authority than their duty."

I hate going into that building, too. Compared to your calm reflection, I am a little more inclined to describe it as "those guys are a bunch of douche bags."

And no matter what I do, I cannot help but get angry at the individuals; I take it as a personal offense. Those guys send my imagination to a very, very dark place.

I will write more later when I am able to more clearly articulate my utter disdain for their behavior. For now: I feel your pain.

Rev. Paul said...

My friend, you have very neatly summed-up all that is wrong with the kabuki the dot-gov tells us we should submit to (and yes, I know the participle is dangling). "those who at times care more about their authority than their duty" ... I would delete only "at times".