Courts Marshals get added protection
BRIDGEPORT — The hundreds of men and women who guard the state’s courthouses were ordered to strip Wednesday — to be fitted for bulletproof vests.
By July, each of the state’s 620 judicial marshals will be outfitted with an undershirt bulletproof vest of the type currently worn by the state police.
Donald Murphy, director of judicial marshal services, said the vests are being issued in response to an Occupational Safety and Health Administration safety violation citation.
“As a result of a complaint, an OSHA investigation was conducted and a recommendation was made that we equip judicial marshals with the vests,” Murphy said.
While the OSHA citation specifically directed the recommendation to marshals who guard the front doors of the state’s courthouses and those who transport prisoners, Murphy said that because marshals are rotated to different assignments, it was decided it would be easier to just equip all of them with vests.
Each vest costs $550 for a total of $341,000 for the current 620 marshals. Murphy said there are also two classes of prospective marshals, so the number of vests could increase by 60.
“There was a complaint made that marshals are being exposed to potential threats from firearms and OSHA agreed with that and issued the citation,” Murphy said. The state Judicial Branch did not take an appeal.
Joe Gaetano, president of the judicial marshal’s union, the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, confirmed that the union had filed the complaint with OSHA.
“Unfortunately, society is changing and we feel we need the proper equipment to do our job,” said Gaetano. “These are the same vests worn by the state police and not only will they stop a bullet but they will also stop a knife as well.”
While the new vests will make the marshals look bulkier, Gaetano said that is a small price to pay for safety.
Many of the judicial marshals questioned Wednesday appeared positive about getting the equipment, but some pointed out the irony of them wearing bulletproof vests and being prohibited from carrying guns.
In January, a legislative security study is expected to be completed, and Gaetano said he is hoping it recommends that marshals finally get the right to carry guns.
“Marshals is certain positions should be armed, such as those guarding the front doors and those doing transportation, but judicial has been reluctant to allow that,” he said.