Friday, August 14, 2015

Over-reactionary Consequences

It is a real shame that the Brown County Sheriff's Department had to lose one of its K9 units to a series of system failures at the PGA Championship.  The dog was being kept in a squad car--which was left running with the air conditioner on.  But then the AC unit stopped working properly--and a system designed for police K9 squads that is supposed to alert the officer and automatically lower the windows also failed--leaving Wix the dog to die from hyperthermia.

While the final incident report will blame the technology for the dog's death, this whole thing was also completely avoidable because the dog didn't need to be at the golf course anyway.  He was part of what I consider to be an over-the-top modern approach to security at special events.

From the federal to the local level, so much in resources, time, money and equipment are spent on making ourselves feel like we are safer.  Consider what my trips have been like to get to the PGA all this week.  To get to the Media parking lot, I have to take a country road out of Howards Grove to Whistling Straits.  At one intersection there are three or four State Patrol Troopers and their squad cars directing light traffic and making sure that I have the proper parking pass to be driving down that road.  About a mile after that, at another intersection are three or four more State Patrol Troopers and their squad cars directing light traffic and making sure that I have the correct parking pass to be driving on that road.  And then about a half mile from there--at the entrance to the Media lot--is another State Patrol Trooper with his squad car directing traffic in and out and making sure that I have the proper parking pass to go into that lot.  About 50-feet away from him are paid civilians making sure that I have the proper parking pass for that lot and directing me to a parking spot.

Once I'm in the lot, I go to the shuttle bus pickup spot--where a security person checks my credential to make sure I'm authorized to get on the bus.  After the ride, I get dropped off at a gate where security personnel scan the barcode on my credential to make sure I'm authorized to be on the grounds.  My bag gets checked--although no one actually examines any of the equipment inside to see if it is really is digital recorders and computers.  I also get wanded down--but I'm not required to empty my pockets--the security person just asks "What's in your pockets?" and I say "wallet and cellphone"--and they just wave my through.  And then about ten feet from the checkpoint is another security person to make sure that I have the correct credential to get into the Media Center--even though she just saw that credential get scanned.

Those in charge of security for this and similar events would tell you that all of these layers of  are necessary because if they weren't in place and there was an incident--the media would be crucifying everyone involved because parking passes weren't checked enough or credentials weren't repeatedly verified.  But if you have a color copier, you could make your own parking pass just like mine.  And if you were to plant an explosive device in a digital recorder or a notebook computer, the folks at the checkpoint would have no idea.

Just like the TSA at airports, we have developed a system of "security by show"--where it looks like we are going to catch any terrorist or crazed gunman at multiple points--but in reality, someone determined to do us harm still stands a very good chance of success.  And unfortunately, that "show" comes with a high price tag--both in terms of money and sometimes life itself.

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