January 1, 2015 started out on an interesting note for my family and I. As we were taking the obligatory selfies and picture of the White House in the early morning we witnessed an idiot mobilize the Secret Service into action. It started innocently enough, a few tourists and locals, not more than a dozen in total walking and standing in front of the White House. We were actually outnumbered by the Secret Service, those in uniform and those at the ready.
There were two protestors, staffing two protest tents protesting about international issues. There was us, a few other tourists and two skateboarders skating down the street. All pretty quiet until Landon pointed and asked, “Why is he jumping the fence?” An eight year old knew better than the twenty-something idiot! Moments later the Secret Service mobilized and within a minute, a skateboarder was being frisked.
As you may know, there is the black fence everyone has seen in the pictures of the White House. There is also a smaller temporary one a few feet in front of the original fence. It is clearly marked “restricted area, do not enter.” I was surprised to see the second fence because on my previous trips to Washington DC you could walk right up to the original fence. I am not sure when the second fence was added but I believe it must have been recent because of how temporary it seemed.
I did not see the whole thing as I was taking picture of the White House but piecing together the commentary from Laura and Landon and what I personally witnessed it appears that the skateboarder was goofing off and his skateboard went under the small, temporary, fence. When the commotion started, I saw him throw his skateboard back, away from the White House and jump over the small fence back towards the street, away from the White House.
Immediately and within thirty-seconds he was surrounded and cornered by uniformed Secret Service agents and a couple of plainclothes ones as well. We were then told to move away from the fence area and cross the street back to the park. To write that to Landon this was the highlight of his vacation is an understatement.
However, from my point of view I wanted to share a few observations with you. There has been much commentary directed at the efficiency of the Secret Service and their ability to do their job. As some of you know, there are different tiers of Secret Service with the most experienced being closer to the president. The ones I witnessed doing their job are the likely the younger, less experienced ones.
In today’s world, any intrusion on the White House or attempted one is a very serious matter that rises above the simple notion of protecting the president. It is about protecting a symbol that is the nexus to the country. What I saw was a disciplined police force that did its job as required. As serious as the matter was, guns were not overtly brandished and people threatened.
From my perspective, the threat was evaluated in a split-second and the appropriate response was applied. Do not get me wrong, it wasn’t a simple case of one, or two agents responding. Instead, it was overwhelming manpower responding but not overly aggressive with screams of get on the ground and guns being pointed at everyone. The skateboarder was neutralized with the appropriate force without much of the commotion that one sees on television by local police forces responding to less serious problems.
We did not want to wait to watch the whole drama play out because we were hungry and on our way to eat breakfast so, we did not see the aftermath. We left when the skateboarder was being frisked and his companion was being asked questions. I Googled for any news of the incident and have not found any so I assume that it turned out to be nothing more than a stupid skateboarder trying to retrieve his skateboard.
This is important because many of the police abuse issues being discuss today start out as a misunderstanding that somehow escalate out of control. I realize one incident does not give me a complete look into the professionalism of the Secret Service but what I witnessed was the proper, effective and efficient response to the immediate potential threat. We all look for the scandal and mostly ignore when the right thing is done; so today I wanted to share with you something that looked good to me.