A false sense of security

March 10, 2008

by Ivan Raconteur

Adding metal detectors and more armed security guards to public buildings will provide a 100 percent guarantee that no elected officials or public employees will ever be victims of violence – as long as we are able to convince would-be criminals to follow the rules and pass through the appointed check points while officers happen to be on duty.

This will not, of course, protect these officials and employees from other employees who may go a bit postal, or from fiends who choose not to follow the rules, or from any malcontent who realizes that these potential victims lose their veil of security the minute they step out the door.

About the only thing guards and metal detectors can really guarantee is that they will cost taxpayers a lot of money.

Last Tuesday, the Wright County Board on a split vote approved an additional full-time armed officer to supplement the government center security detail. This will allow the county to carry out its goal of requiring anyone entering the government center to pass through a metal detector attended by an armed guard.

This means that anyone who wishes to pick up license tabs, renew a driver’s license, or transact any other county business will have to pass through security.

Commissioner Pat Sawatzke said that, based on a survey of seven counties conducted by county staff at his request, this makes Wright County the first county in the area, if not in the state, to require visitors to its government center to pass through security.

Wright County, like many other counties, already has a security checkpoint for those entering the courts area.

I can attest to the efficiency of this operation, because I have personally been required to hike back out to my vehicle to rid myself of a key chain attached to a pen knife with a one-inch blade before I was allowed access to the courts to cover a hearing.

Never mind that it would be much more convenient for me to garrote someone with the lanyard on my press pass than it would be to inflict any damage with an implement as innocuous as a pen knife with a tiny folding blade. Rules are rules.

Commissioner Karla Heeter said the move will make Wright County a leader in providing security for its government center employees and visitors. Sawatzke replied that it will make the county a leader in wasting money.

It is more than an issue of money, however.

It is an issue of freedom.

The wave of post-Sept. 11 hysteria has already forced us to endure an abundance of extremely inefficient, inconvenient, and expensive security measures if we choose to travel.

These measures, while burdensome to the traveling public, have repeatedly proved to be ineffective in stopping a determined evil-doer.

Hiring security guards to shake down everyone from kids to little old ladies, forcing people to remove their shoes, and confiscating all the hand lotion and nail clippers they can get their hands on may give the appearance of the government taking action, but these things have not made travel any safer.

This security madness may give some people a sense of security, but it is a false sense of security. It is also the top of a very slippery slope.

Where will it all end?

If we continue along this path, one can envision a day when all of the ordinary citizens are cowering behind bars, and the bad guys are roaming free.

The masterminds in charge of security could force everyone to travel naked to ensure no one is concealing any weapons, and they could put machine gun nests in front of all of our buildings and build walls around every work station, but is that the way we really want to live?

We can’t possibly guard against every possible threat, and I, for one, do not intend to try.

This is still a free-ish country, and it should remain that way. If we give in to fear and distrust, we are doomed to become prisoners of our own paranoia.

When my number comes up, I prefer to die a free man in a free country, rather than a rabbit in a cage hiding behind a false sense of security.

The world is a dangerous place, but it has always been a dangerous place. We cannot allow fear to rule our lives.

It makes us sad to hear about incidents in which people are the victims of senseless violence, but the real tragedy would be to go through life trying to buffer oneself from every imaginable threat, only to become the victim of something we never anticipated.

The only way that security checkpoints will work is if we can convince all the villains to play by the rules, and, historically speaking, they have an exasperating habit of refusing to do so.

We can post “weapons prohibited on these premises” signs on every building, but villains tend not to read signs, and they would likely pay these as much attention as a speed limit.

We can spend a fortune on elaborate security measures, but feeling safer is never going to make us safer.