When you enter our federal building in Lincoln, you will walk up to a screening station. Two men or women will great you. They are pleasant and welcoming. They are nicely dressed in pressed grey pants, blue blazers, dress shirts and nice ties. You can’t tell it, but they are carrying semiautomatic firearms. You might notice that they sometimes have little “ear buds” (connecting them to a command station).
They will very efficiently run your things through a scanner. They will ask you to walk through another scanner. This happens even if you are a court employee or other building tenant. If you left your keys in your pants, a buzzer will ring and they may “wand” you if they can’t find the metal that triggered the alarm. As they do this, and sensing your irritation, they will relax you with small talk and then send you on your way.
If you are old, or don’t speak English very well, or are just confused, they will quietly visit with you and help you navigate the five-story building. The children in the day care love these men and women. Each child is known by name, and happily runs through screening process delighted to see and jabber with their old friends.
If you are on the court floors (of our joint use building), you may see them. Aside from small insignia on their blazers, and the ear buds, they look like well dressed middle-aged lawyers. During a civil or criminal trial, and even if the U.S. Marshals are in the courtroom, you might notice a CSO take a seat in the back of the courtroom in one of the two black padded chairs near the rear door. He or she will sit for a little while and then quietly leave.
The men and women I write about are Court Security Officers (CSOs). Our group in Lincoln is composed of the best of the best of retired state troopers and police officers. Since law enforcement officers are forced to retire at a relatively early age, our court benefits by being able to hire these officers when they are in their prime.
Let me give you a little bit of background about the two fellows pictured in the poorly crafted photograph I took yesterday that appears in this post. Both men retired from the Nebraska State Patrol after having long and very distinguished careers. One ended his career as a pilot for the air wing flying both fixed wing aircraft and helicopters. The other ended his career protecting the Governor. Each one had 27 years on the Patrol. They are just the best, and, moreover, they are typical of the other CSOs.
In the federal judiciary we are pleased to be protected by the United States Marshals. They are great young men and women with wonderful training. Unknown to most people, however, are the dedicated group of Court Security Officers who bring to our system an important maturity and life long commitment to justice. I happily put my life into the hands of these men and women every day, and they deserve to be recognized for their professionalism and courage.
I would tip my cap to the Lincoln CSOs, but my head is bald as a cue ball. I couldn’t take the grief I would endure from the CSOs. With a respect that is nevertheless wry, CSOs give judges like me just enough crap to remind us that we walk on two legs just like everyone else. We judges need that daily reminder.
CSOs: Great people all.