As the Secret Service works to make sure no other intruder makes it through the front door of the While House, there might be one lesson it could learn from Nevada’s Capitol Police: lock the door.
Unlike the North Portico of the White House, the front door to the governor’s mansion in Carson City is locked.
The Secret Service is still investigating how Omar Gonzales of Texas not only made it over the fence, but across the White House lawn recently and entered the unlocked doors of the North Portico before Secret Service agents tackled him. He’s now facing charges that could result in a 10 year prison sentence.
Jerome Tushbant, chief of the Capitol Police, said that immediately prompted him and his staff to examine their procedures looking for potential weaknesses.
The division is responsible for the safety of Gov. Brian Sandoval and his family at the mansion as well as the safety of Sandoval and the other five constitutional officers and their staffs in the Capitol.
While he declined to detail their procedures, he confirmed both the mansion and capitol have security personnel on site around the clock.
Tushbant’s officers also staff the Attorney General’s office across the street from the Capitol during business hours.
“Within our critical infrastructure there are several layers of protection,” he said.
That includes not only capitol police officers but technology such as video cameras.
Over the past few years, security around both buildings has increased significantly. Bollards — essentially steel posts imbedded in concrete — have been installed to prevent vehicles from driving onto the capitol complex and up to the building as well as the mansion. A key-card activated security gate was installed to limit access to the rear of the capitol and more video cameras have been added in both places.
In addition, he said his officers work closely with officers in the Legislative Police and the newly formed Supreme Court security detail as well as with the Carson City Sheriff’s Department.
In addition, the governor has a security detail who accompanies him pretty much everywhere including his son’s high school basketball games. Those officers are assigned through the Nevada Highway Patrol and aren’t part of the Capitol Police.
Like the Secret Service, Tushbant said providing that security is a balancing act.
“If’s difficult because you’ve got a governor who enjoys his freedoms,” he said. “We have to balance security with freedoms.”
He said the capitol, for example, is an open public building and the governor wants it that way. Visitors, however, are greeted when they enter by a uniformed officer.
“We live in a world of very real and ever emerging threats,” he said. “So we’re constantly re-evaluating procedures — even prior to the incident at the White House.”
Tushbant said it’s a challenge because, unlike the White House, the mansion is in a neighborhood in west Carson City surrounded by regular folks who live next door.
“That brings us some unique challenges,” he said.
Although most have years of experience with other law enforcement agencies and are all fully certified, the Capitol Police force is a small organization.
Tushbant said that fact is why his force works closely with the Supreme Court and Legislative police chiefs as well as the Carson Sheriff’s Department to make sure everyone knows what the others are doing in terms of security.
“We’re all talking and working well,” he said. “The the ability to get our job as a team is so much more powerful.”