LOWER PAXTON TOWNSHIP, Pa. (WHTM) — There are renewed questions regarding security at district judge’s offices after a shooting in a Lower Paxton Township courtroom Monday.
Police say a man shot himself in the head while in the waiting room at a district court. The offices of magisterial district judges are meant to be the people’s courts, within communities.
“Those district judges offices are usually only staffed by two or three people, plus a district judge that may be on duty at any given time,” said John Sancenito, security expert and president of Information Network Associates.
Unlike centralized county courthouses, the offices don’t typically have metal detectors or armed guards.
“Typically they lack the budget to be able to support having a guard there 24/7, to be able to check individuals as they come and go,” Sancenito said.
Monday afternoon around 2 p.m., police were in the building, along with district court staff and others, when police say the man shot himself.
Sancenito says metal detectors and other measures could help prevent something like this from happening again.
“You just can’t protect everything,” Sancenito said. “There’s always going to be those establishments that are soft targets and if someone was really determined to bring a weapon into a location like that, they can do so.”
Sancenito says a lot of state agencies, unlike the federal government, lack systematic security controls.
“It is usually up to the individual office to decide what is appropriate for their security and to work within the budget they’re given,” Sancenito said. “I think that a set of standards that are statewide, that apply to all the district justice offices, is duly needed.”
The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts released a statement detailing its recent steps to increase security.
“While individual counties are responsible for funding of MDJ court facilities, the Judiciary works with them to support security efforts. In addition, as part of its focus on ensuring safety in Pennsylvania’s courts, the Judiciary empaneled a task group led by a magisterial district judge to review security issues at magisterial district court offices statewide. While their work is ongoing, we anticipate recommendations addressing:
· Enhanced security and weapons screening
· Means to fund major initiatives
· Standards and guidelines for facilities”
Police say the man who shot himself is expected to survive while the incident remains under investigation.