Unmanned Westmoreland courthouse entrance draws criticism
Union complaints about lax security at one Westmoreland County Courthouse entrance have forced officials to evaluate potential safety breaches.
Park police “like to pretend it's such a secure building. It's a farce,” said Jackie Lucchetti, vice president of the Westmoreland County Court-Related Employees Association.
County officials conceded Wednesday there is a security “vulnerability” at the three-building complex and that an investigation has begun to determine where tighter control is needed.
Lucchetti said union members complained about a security directive instituted in April that requires all county employees to carry their identification cards to enter any courthouse building before the official start of the work day.
Most of the roughly 900 courthouse employees and visitors are required to enter through one of three security checkpoints manned by park police officers and pass through metal detectors.
Lucchetti said commissioners and judges, their staffs, court officials and some court employees are exempt from the ID card edict because they use about 60 parking spaces on the upper level to the eight-story annex building at the intersection of West Otterman Street and South Pennsylvania Avenue.
“Upper Park,” which fronts West Otterman Street, allows for free access for those employees, who can enter the courthouse by simply using a swipe card. There are no cameras, metal detectors or proactive security measures on that level.
Commissioner Charles Anderson said the Upper Park entrance must be re-evaluated.
“It's a vulnerability, and we need to take it seriously,” he said.
The commissioners directed park police Chief Nick Caesar to investigate and make recommendations on enhancing security at the private entrance.
Caesar said he started his own investigation after he received complaints that employees with access to the Upper Park level are allowed to enter the building there, creating a potential for banned items such as firearms to be taken into the courthouse.
“We have been closely monitoring Upper Park since we've received the complaints, and we've seen nothing to substantiate those complaints,” he said.
Caesar said there is no evidence that any employee or elected official has taken a gun into a courthouse building.
In 2004, commissioners approved an ordinance that specifically banned elected officials and judges from taking in guns. All other county employees and visitors already were prohibited from carrying guns into the buildings.
“It's closely monitored,” Caesar said of the unsecured entrance. “We're always evaluating security at all of our entrances.”
Richard Gazarik contributed. Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Second phase of Westmoreland Airpark in Unity opens
- Greater Latrobe teachers, school board approve 5-year contract
- House 58th District seat candidates focus on education, taxes
- Attorney: Indiana County suspect not fit for trial in fatal Derry shooting
- Unity rally aims to counter negativity of KKK message in ’97
- Pittsburgh man pleads guilty in Monessen shooting
- Trick-or-treat in Mt. Pleasant set for Sunday
- Kin of 2013 DUI crash victim in Hempfield lose young family in fire
- Mt. Pleasant residents voice support for Zilli as borough police chief
- Westmoreland group gets pet oxygen masks for area fire departments
- North Huntingdon church shaken by youth pastor’s child porn rap