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Eye Opener: Las Vegas shooting revives building security concerns

By Ed O'Keefe

Emergency vehicles outside the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse on Monday in Las Vegas. A suspect shot and killed a court security officer and wounded a deputy U.S. marshal before fleeing. He was later shot and killed nearby. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty)

Eye Opener

Happy Tuesday! The shooting at a federal courthouse in Las Vegas on Monday quickly revived concerns about security at federal facilities nationwide.

The apparently isolated incident in Las Vegas -- and reports of nine suspicious letters sent to Alabama federal offices -- immediately provided fodder for those concerned that the Federal Protective Service, the nation's primary protective agency for federal facilities, continues to rely too much on contract private security guards.

Though most federal facilities are protected by the FPS, security at the Lloyd D. George U.S. Courthouse and Federal Building is handled by U.S. Marshals. The Marshals handle security at federal courthouses or buildings where a federal court is the primary tenant.

Government auditors exposed major lapses in FPS security last summer, as investigators successfully smuggled bomb-making materials into 10 high-security federal buildings, constructed bombs and then walked around the buildings undetected. As The Eye has reported, GAO and Congress pinned most of the blame on the FPS, a small agency that has moved around the Department of Homeland Security org chart since the department was created in 2003.

FPS officers are assisting with the Marshals investigation, according to sources. There are only two full-time FPS officers assigned to Las Vegas, according to sources. One officer is an inspector, while the other is an area commander. The number of contract FPS guards in the Las Vegas region was not immediately known. There are no current plans to increase the number of full-time FPS officers in the Las Vegas region, a source said.

The General Services Administration owns and operates the courthouse, which was completed in 2002. The building includes 10 courtrooms, offices for at least 370 federal workers and district offices for Sens. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and John Ensign (R-Nev.). Neither lawmaker was present at the time of the shooting. The facility's award-winning design accounted for stronger GSA security standards implemented after the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | January 5, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener, Workplace Issues  
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