Homeland Security Out of the Loop During Connecticut Courthouses' Bomb Scare

Neither police nor Governor's office alerted state's department of homeland security


NEW HAVEN, Connecticut - Connecticut homeland security officials were not informed until more than two hours after a series of bomb threats prompted the evacuation and shutdown of all of the state's 45 courthouses, authorities acknowledged Monday.

Neither police nor Gov. M. Jodi Rell's office - which received one of the bomb threats at 10 a.m. Friday - had informed the security agency by noon. Top officials of the agency finally learned about the emergency from reporters.

"We know we have to work very closely together and we're hoping the situation we experienced Friday won't be replicated," said James Thomas, commissioner of the state's Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

After police monitored courthouses over the weekend and reported no problems, courts opened as usual Monday. Police believe the Friday bomb threat was a hoax intended to disrupt court business.

Public Safety Commissioner Leonard Boyle said Thomas' department wasn't informed immediately Friday because the threat did not rise to the level of a statewide emergency. He said the threat was not specific, investigators couldn't determine its credibility and there was no indication of terrorism.

"We're going to come up with a system, either by blast fax or e-mail, that will notify all state agencies when something like this arises," Boyle said. "When we have information that's important to get out statewide, but that isn't an emergency, we need a better way."

Rell's spokesman, Judd Everhart, said the governor had instructed Boyle "to tighten the communications plan among state agencies" for emergencies.

Local police also complained that they were not notified, and they will be included in any new statewide communication system, Boyle said.

Courts in New Britain and Bristol were briefly evacuated Monday after police received another threat, and investigators were attempting to determine if it came from the same source as Friday's.

(Associated Press WorldStream -- 12/06/05)