City Council’s Concern over Facility Security a…Concerning Security Situation


By Kenneth Lipp

A document prepared by Public Property Commissioner Bridget Collins-Greenwald and sent to Council President Darrell Clarke, marked “For Official Use Only (FOUO)” as sensitive emergency planning and response for public facilities in Philadelphia, was intended to answer questions and address concerns regarding building security raised at an April meeting of the Committee of the Whole. The document was subsequently uploaded to the public City Council web server, where the Declaration located it yesterday during routine research using Google to “mine” the web for content of interest.

The City of Philadelphia has two of its greatest challenges ever in crowd-management and security approaching, with the Democratic National Convention next summer, and the visit of Pope Francis during the World Meeting of Families in a few short months, which is expected to draw as many as 1.5 million visitors to the city. Philly officials have been preparing for the undertaking since prior to its official announcement, and according to Mayor’s Office’s spokesperson Desiree Peterkin-Bell, the city has “created a very successful model for this kind of event, and we will be following that.”

But Councilman Curtis Jones seems to be  slightly more nervous about the safety of the people in the building where he works, and other Philadelphia-run facilities, during upcoming occasions of increased traffic like the September World Meeting of Families and papal visit. He addressed this to Commissioner Greenwald during a Committee of the Whole meeting on April 28th. Read a portion of the transcript below, which, with all the underhanded jokes about the 2nd vs. the 4th floor (Council offices vs. Mayor’s Office), is pretty amusing:


So one of the issues that I have with all of the wonderful 1.5 million visitors coming to the City of Philadelphia, I anticipate an increased amount of traffic in this building. By way of security, we need to take this opportunity to take a look at not just the second floor but the fourth floor, because, you know, the Mayor enjoys a whole platoon that guards him. The only thing we have up here is Shump.*

*Presumably a reference to Shumpert Caldwell, sergeant-at-arms.

Shumpert with his Council patron, Democratic Mayoral nominee Jim Kenney. From his Facebook page.

Shumpert with his Council patron, Democratic Mayoral nominee Jim Kenney. From his Facebook page.

COMMISSIONER GREENWALD: You’re in very good hands with Shump, though, I have to say. I feel safe around Shump.


I would too, but even Shump doesn’t have an S on his chest.

Councilman Jones seems to have been particularly spooked by the delivery of a package containing white powder to a judge’s office in City Hall earlier that month, and perhaps a bit put-out by the response from emergency management personnel. Philadelphia police arrived on scene that morning with HAZMAT and Bomb Squad units who evacuated the 4th floor. Mike Dunn reported on the relative non-event for CBS Philadelphia on April 2:  “Officials said testing determined that the powder was not dangerous, and the floor was reopened. Further analysis identified the substance as talcum powder. The remainder of City Hall was unaffected by the fourth-floor activity.”

Jones told Commisioner Greenwald at the April 28 Committee meeting:  “there needs to be a greater sense of security up here…and a plan. We had a scare maybe a month ago now of some powder that was found in our area, and I wasn’t overly impressed with how we handled that. It was like everybody was on their own, and, yeah, we cordoned off one of the areas, but I think we can do a little better in light of all of the guests to City Hall. And we are, in my opinion — and I don’t want to put it out there, but a soft target…”

The Public Property Commissioner told Jones that they had been working with both the PPD Homeland Security division and the US Department of Homeland Security to do an assessment of public buildings by security risks and threat level, and devise a plan that prioritizes investment of resources. City Hall, the DA’s Office, and the Triplex – the Criminal Justice Center, Municipal Services Building, and city offices located at 1515 Arch – were the locations where Greenwald said they identified security would most need to be “shored up,” and assured Councilman Jones that political obstructions between the 2nd and 4th floors of City Hall “would not crowd our security plans. Absolutely.”

The assessment and plan mentioned is presumably the Philadelphia OEM product uploaded to the Council website.  In typical Homeland Security fashion, the plan involves color-coded risk tiers. The Philly OEM calls them “posture levels.”

"Posture levels" to be designated by the Security Advisory Group, colors redacted to protect municipal security.

“Posture levels” to be designated by the Security Advisory Group, colors redacted to protect municipal security.

The 3 posture levels – one normal, then “elevated” and “high” levels – and threat-ranking of 9 other municipal facilities throughout the city aim to correct an operational shortcoming, according to the OEM document, that “there is no security playbook to support decision making or planning by leadership and facility managers.”

Outside of public safety agencies, the City lacks a clear process to quickly assess, adapt and respond appropriately to a crisis within a Philadelphia facility or a neighboring jurisdiction, be it a technological hazard or adversarial incident.

Under the “Unified City Facility Security Criteria” program overview provided to City Council, a ten-member Security Advisory Group  “determines the need for a posture change after a threat or incident.”  The group is made up of executives in the Mayor’s Office, commanders from the Police and Fire Departments including the DVIC fusion center, the Director of Risk Management, the Director of Public Safety, the Commissioner of Public Property, and the Director of Emergency Management.

The plan then prescribes an operating procedure to enhance security upon an increase in posture at a given facility, such as designating a separate visitor entrance and checking building notification systems when under an “elevated posture,” and “ensure building information binder has updated and correct information and is located near fire command panel” both under elevated and high posture levels.

An email to the City Council’s communications office this afternoon, notifying them of the document’s public availability and inquiring as to why it may have been uploaded to the site, had not been returned as of this posting. The Declaration has given the City the opportunity to suggest redactions, should they wish, prior to our publication of the document. We’ll analyze it in more detail soon, hopefully with some input from City Hall, either the 2nd or 4th floor will do.

About Kenneth Lipp

Kenneth is a writer and researcher. He’s from Alabama, and will not apologize for it. He moved to Pennsylvania in 2012, but has been in love with Philadelphia since a late-night stroll down Ben Franklin Parkway to the Art Museum in July of 2011 with the love of his life. He is interested in telling Philadelphia’s dynamic and absolutely unique stories with the zeal of a constantly enamored newcomer. Kenneth is also passionate about government transparency and protection of whistleblowers, most notably PFC Chelsea Manning. His research and reporting on law enforcement and surveillance have been featured in various publications, including Rolling Stone (Meet the Private Companies Helping Cops Spy on Protesters) and Popular Science (Boston Tested Crowd-Watching Software That Catalogues People's Skin Color). His training is in both genetics and history and he likes the joke about being a helicase and unzipping your “genes.” He’s driven to know, and thinks you can handle, the truth. Follow him on Twitter @kennethlipp.

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