On one hand, the Lancaster County police officers who went to Washington, D.C., to work security at Wednesday’s presidential inauguration performed routine duties, mainly standing along Pennsylvania Avenue and watching for anything out of the ordinary.
On the other hand, there they were, some 30 police officers from Lancaster County, deputized as Special U.S. Marshals, providing security at the inauguration of the 46th president.
And that was pretty cool.
“It was an honor and a privilege to be part of it,” said Thomas Murray, one of three officers from West Lampeter Township’s department who went.
His chief and a lieutenant asked him this summer if he’d be interested in taking part.
“It didn’t take long to say yes,” he said.
Besides West Lampeter, the other county departments who sent officers were East Lampeter, Manor, Strasburg, Quarryville and Pequea.
They were under the leadership of Pequea Chief John Michener, who was also in charge of some officers from departments in Maryland and Massachusetts.
Michener said one of his officers, a former federal agent, was contacted last spring about possibly helping out. That officer, in turn, asked him if he’d be interested.
Michener said yes after getting the go-ahead from township officials. And so began months of virtual training and planning before a caravan of a half-dozen police vehicles left the county for Washington on Monday night.
All told, some 2,300 law enforcement officers from around the country were brought in to support inauguration security efforts.
Deputy Marshals from D.C. District Court swear in a total of 2300 law enforcement officers from across the country as Special Deputy U.S. Marshals prior to the upcoming presidential inauguration: https://t.co/BMw8qD9HtK pic.twitter.com/nW9Vs6Fdll— U.S. Marshals (@USMarshalsHQ) January 19, 2021
Tuesday was spent on last-minute training, with Michener and other officers in charge doing site surveys, going over contingency plans and attending to things such as the locations of bathrooms and food.
Officers woke around 3 a.m. Wednesday and were on their posts around 4 a.m. The morning started out with flurries, then a bit of rain, before giving way to sunshine, Michener said.
“Wednesday was a long day of standing on the cold concrete,” he said.
Most of Michener’s contingent was stationed on what he described as the outer perimeter of the security area, about seven blocks from the Capitol, though some officers were reassigned to help the Secret Service at an access gate closer to the main event.
So there wasn’t much interacting with members of the public who were on hand, Michener said.
And, unfortunately, according to Michener and Murray, no one saw any dignitaries or celebrities.
“Every once in a while, down the parade route, they’d come down with cruisers and dark Suburbans all tinted up and speed right past us. We had no idea who was in them,” Murray said.
Still, Murray and Michener said participating was a valuable experience.
Michener said officers picked up some things in training that could prove useful, such as spotting the tell-tale signs that could show that someone is concealing something, and how to assess suspicious packages.
Both officers said the opportunity to talk with fellow officers from around the country was a highlight. (Officers from Florida purchased snow pants to stay warm, whereas Michener said the temperatures weren’t bad.)
Michener was thankful nothing happened, given the attack on the Capitol on Jan 6.
When he saw that unfold on TV, he checked with everyone who had signed up and gave them the opportunity to back out. No one did.
Costs for participating will be covered by the federal government, Michener said.