Employee badges eyed as potential hole in security 

Grand jury directs Hall of Justice to tighten up its staff identification system

REDWOOD CITY — The county’s Hall of Justice needs to tighten up its system for handing out and checking employee identification badges and card keys, according to a civil grand jury report released Thursday.

The report by the San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury called the system for monitoring the use of the building’s special entrance for employees and those with ID badges, or card-keys, "less than ideal." It recommended that the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and the Sheriff’s Office consider random spot-checks of identification at the entrances and become more stringent about deactivating the badges once an employee no longer works in the building.

The report also suggested that the supervisors and sheriff reconsider policies that allow badges to be valid for more than 12 months and give work crews access to the building, which houses both the courts and some county offices, without vetting each member of the crew.

"While the County wants to present an open environment to members of the public, … the courts require a more secure environment," the report said, which also dubbed the current system "generally effective."

"The current badge control system is an attempt to satisfy both requirements and is less than ideal for either," it adds.

San Mateo County Manager John Maltbie said he was not aware of any incident in which someone had managed to sneak a weapon in to the hall and use it. He noted that if the county’s offices were in the building, such security measures would not be in place.

"The security system is in place because the courts have deemed it necessary," Maltbie said.

"There are always areas that can be approved," Lt. Lisa Williams of the County Sheriff’s Office said. "We’ll re-examine our policies and procedures to address the areas of concern in this report."

Thursday’s report follows up on a previous 2005-2006 civil grand jury report that pinpointed a security issue in which a former employee’s badge was still active.

An investigation revealed that of 60 employees in the Hall of Justice who no longer worked there, six still had active badges.

Also, those with badges are not required to show them to a security guard, according to the report. And there’s no procedure to make sure that the person carrying the badge is the its rightful owner.

The report also noted that security badges for vendors and work crews in the building are only issued to a supervisor, who then provides access to the building for individuals who haven’t undergone a security check.

dsmith@examiner.com

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