October 27, 2015
In Wake Of The Terrible Incident At Costello Courthouse, VSEA Issued The Following Press Release Reminding Of January 2015 Report’s Call For Increased Security In Vermont’s Courthouses:
Vermont State Employees Association (VSEA) members who work in Vermont courthouses statewide have been working with their union for years to sound the alarm about potential security issues inside our state’s courthouses. Their concerns were validated in January 2015, when Judiciary Chief of Finance and Administration Matt Riven delivered a report to the legislature that was prepared by “national court security experts” and identified “significant unmet security needs in the four courthouses in the study sample,” one of which was the Costello Courthouse in Burlington. To date, the Judiciary has not acted on many of the report’s recommendations, primarily; VSEA members are told, because there is no money.
“The excuse that there is no money to provide better security at the Costello Courthouse and other courthouses, or to put measures in place to better protect frontline social workers while at work, is not acceptable to VSEA members or, frankly, to the public,” explains VSEA President Dave Bellini. “Last legislative session, in response to our Governor’s request for anyone to submit ideas to find some money, VSEA members made several suggestions to generate new revenue, and state employees now want the State and lawmakers to revisit these ideas and apply some of this revenue to ensuring workers and the public are as safe as can be at all times.” He added that workers tell him the Legislature further complicated the Judiciary’s security problem earlier this year, when lawmakers instructed senior assistant judges in H. 490 to recommend proposals to the Court Administrator by November 2015 to cut each court’s security budget by an additional 3 percent. “This doesn’t seem like a good directive,” Bellini said.
VSEA Judiciary Unit Chair Margaret Crowley echoed Bellini’s security concerns, saying, “The incident last week at the Costello Courthouse that we all only just learned about is further evidence that courthouse security upgrades are needed, and VSEA hopes the Judiciary will join with frontline workers in the upcoming months to lobby for the additional funds needed to ensure worker and public safety. VSEA members agree with Matt Riven, who wrote in his January summary to the legislature that, ‘It is no longer acceptable—if it ever was—to assume that violent incidents such as have occurred elsewhere in the United States could never happen in Vermont.’ Now, seven months later, there’s the tragic killing of a social worker and a brutal rape at the Costello Courthouse. Mr. Riven is right. These kinds of incidents are no longer acceptable. The time to act is now.”