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IG faults Marshals Service oversight of court security

Nov. 19, 2010 - 06:00AM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments
A U.S. Marshals Service court security officer checks visitors and their bags at a Chicago federal courthouse in March 2005. Contract court security officers in at least six cases did not detect mock explosives sent by a Justice Department inspector general team, according to an inspector general report released Nov. 19.
A U.S. Marshals Service court security officer checks visitors and their bags at a Chicago federal courthouse in March 2005. Contract court security officers in at least six cases did not detect mock explosives sent by a Justice Department inspector general team, according to an inspector general report released Nov. 19. (File photo / Getty Images)

Contract court security officers in at least six cases did not detect mock explosives testing kits sent by the U.S. Marshals Service headquarters to district offices, according to a new Justice Department inspector general's report.

The finding is one example of how the Marshals Service, charged with providing security inside federal courthouses, has failed to maintain proper oversight of security and security contracts, according to the Nov. 19 report.

Many contract court security officers (CSO) are not trained before starting work. Of 60 CSO personnel files auditors reviewed, 18 percent lacked required firearms qualification records and 47 percent contained outdated firearms qualifications.

The Marshals Service oversees more than 5,000 CSOs at about 400 court facilities and was appropriated $370 million in 2009 for security services.

Three of six Marshals Service district offices auditors visited did not conduct quarterly reviews of security procedures at federal courthouses. In one district, security procedures had not been updated since 1983.

The report also details the awarding of a $300 million contract to a company that had been placed on alert lists within the Justice Department for fraud. The company ended up filing for bankruptcy.

The audit lays out 15 recommendations, including:

Ensure that all security officers are appropriately trained before entering duty.

Ensure district offices perform required quarterly unannounced tests to determine if security officers are screening visitors, packages and mail.

Review the background investigation process for CSOs and ensure investigations are completed in a timely manner.

The Marshals Service concurred with all 15 recommendations. Director John Clark said in a letter responding to the audit that "immediate improvement of the court security procurement process is imperative."

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