Incidents involving city hall and workplace violence in a number of U.S. cities serve as reminders that careful planning and anticipation by local officials can help deter threatening behavior.
The reasons some people may be driven to target city officials with violence and harassment likely reside in a mix of personal, psychological, and social factors. Unfortunately, there are few easy deterrent solutions.
While the issue may be both complex and daunting, there are some recommended steps that cities can consider to help safeguard officials from violence. Below are several resources to help improve city hall security.
In addition, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have developed materials on workplace violence. These can be helpful to cities as they work to prevent violence against public officials.
The FBI recommends that all units of government adopt a response plan that includes:
- A physical security survey and assessment of premises.
- Procedures for addressing threats and threatening behavior.
- Designation and training of an incident response team.
- Access to outside resources, such as threat assessment professionals.
- Training of different management and employee groups.
- Crisis response measures.
- Consistent enforcement of behavioral standards, including effective disciplinary procedures when employees are responsible for the violence.
To learn more:
- View the FBI’s publication, Workplace Violence: Issues in Response (pdf)
- View the Department of Homeland Security publication, Violence in the Federal Workplace: A Guide for Prevention and Response (pdf) (Note: This document includes a model planning process.)
Law enforcement’s key role
The U.S. Secret Service, which is responsible for protecting the president as well as other federal officials, provides additional guidance. Both the Secret Service and the FBI stress the importance of responding to potential threats at an early stage.
Local law enforcement should be informed of concerns officials have about potentially violent citizens as soon as concerns develop. Officials often hesitate to make this move for fear of slander claims or social repercussions. However, law enforcement personnel are trained in the confidential handling of concerns and complaints.
Law enforcement officials can use the “threat assessment” technique developed by the Secret Service to determine whether a concern is founded and whether further action is warranted.
More information on this topic, specifically for law enforcement officials, is available on the League’s public safety risk management blog On the Line.