One voice for the Office of Sheriff
The Wicomico County Courthouse processes over 300,000 people throughout the year. The enormous amount of people highlights the need for a highly trained security detail. Sergeant Joe Thompsen, Supervisor of Judicial Protection, approached his sheriff with two ideas to modify their best practices, prepare for the worst-case scenario and train for a favorable outcome.
For decades the Wicomico Circuit Courthouse was gazed upon as a historical building and many felt it should be open to the public with little accountability for security measures. Sergeant Thompsen stressed the importance of preventing, preparing for, and managing the impact of serious violence in courthouses.
Sergeant Thompsen organized the first ever critical incident training response for his employees in 2013. The exercise consisted of a hazardous material leak on the 4th floor of the Wicomico Circuit Court. Employees had to make decisions to solve problems and several lessons were learned that day. The after action review resulted in enhanced security procedures for the court.
Sergeant Thompsen continued to research information to help prepare his staff for critical incidents. The topics he focused on include courthouse violence, structure fires, and domestic incidents.
In 2014, the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office responded to two incidents involving an explosive device targeting the Wicomico County Circuit Courthouse. The first incident was a bomb threat which shutdown the circuit court and evacuated all persons in the building. Sergeant Thompsen coordinated response with the Salisbury Police Department and the Dorchester and Worcester County Sheriff’s Offices. The courthouse was searched with bomb sniffing dogs and no explosives were found.
In the second incident, a package thought to be suspicious caused a disruption at the Wicomico County Circuit Court. An immediate response by law enforcement enabled Sergeant Thompsen an opportunity to investigate the incident. It was later determined that storage boxes were left in the wrong area with no malicious intent.
These incidents highlight the efficiency and effectiveness of an organized response to critical incidents. Sergeant Thompsen’s leadership and dedication illustrates the significance of training for worst-case situations. His synergistic approach to critical incidents has improved the unified response of public safety to help ensure the safety of all who visit the Wicomico County Courthouses.
2012 Sheriff John Zaruba - DuPage County, IL
2013 Deputy 1st Class William Oakley - Wicomico County, MD
2014 Deputy John Demase - Palm Beach County, FL