No news is not always good news. The entrance to the Los Angeles Federal Building on Wilshire Boulevard was closed for half an hour last Monday, April 18 at the start of the global conference on counter-terrorism. This news has failed to appear in the local media, although it has important implications for event security throughout the area.
hornface.com has skyrocketed to the ranks of the Top Ten news portals on the foundation of this kind of all bases covered reporting. I did not find out about this through a conventional source like a press release or news conference. I know the details because I happened to be standing in the line to enter the building for a routine business appointment immediately behind the woman whose carelessness caused the entire building to be closed to the public, visitors to the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, and counter-terrorism conference delegates.
The start of the chaos has become all to familiar to frequent travelers and visitors to events with security screenings. Kirsten Dean, the MSN travel reporter, described this in detail in an article earlier this month. The woman ahead of me in the security screening line was wearing a large ring and did not bring any secure case to check it through the security conveyor belt. She laughed scornfully at an offer to borrow a plastic container from Staples I use for quick passage through these areas. When she got to the other side of the security screening area, the ring was not in the small open plastic container standard for conveyor belt security screening devices. If the ring was genuine, it was probably worth close to $100,000.
The small staff of entry security screeners closed the entry to everyone except those with top level security clearances for almost half an hour while they searched every inch of the nearby area to try to locate the missing ring. There is no indication that the ring was ever found. No one contacted the local team of experts on this subject — the performers at the Magic Castle. Dozens of them can make a ring disappear using centuries old techniques from the crafts of illusion.
This incident pointed out two challenges to event security in this era of tight budgets. First, recent studies by the ACLU show that the computer generated criteria for intensity of security screening sometimes lack common sense and look like a smokescreen that can be arbitrarily applied to men of Middle Eastern descent. There is no common sense explanation for a woman to wear a ring so expensive that it should be in a safety deposit box when not worn to suddenly not be thoughtful enough to spend a dollar on a simple plastic storage unit to move it through a metal detector. CNN echoed this analysis, noting, “I think the idea that they would try to draw attention to themselves by being arrogant at airport security, it fails the common sense test,” according to CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen.
The second challenge is the lack of breathalyzers at these security screening points. The recent intelligent decision by the Los Angeles Police Department and Supervisor Mike Antonovich to prohibit promotional sales of beer at half-price at mid-week Dodgers games highlighted how the most sophisticated security forces are recognizing the challenges alcohol abuse poses to event security. That could benefit from the expertise of another profession – human resource managers. Temporary staffing agencies know that 9 a.m. on a Monday morning is the peak period for human errors based on the leading factor in industrial accidents — hangovers.