‘Close review’ in progress
Events and lectures that often bring a range of guests to Chautauqua Institution come with a security plan in place. But it’s not always a “one-size-fits-all” approach, said Emily Morris, senior vice president and chief brand officer.
“All plans are developed according to the needs of each event,” Morris said.
Following the attack Friday on internationally known author Salman Rushdie shortly before he was to take part in a lecture, those security plans have come under a microscope.
A 24-year-old New Jersey man stabbed Rushdie several times while Henry Reese, also part of the planned lecture at Chautauqua’s Amphitheater, was injured as well. Within moments of the attack, Hadi Matar was taken into custody and currently faces second-degree attempted murder and second-degree assault charges.
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Morris said Chautauqua develops security plans for each lecture and event taking place on its grounds. Those plans, she said, are in collaboration with regional law enforcement, the FBI and expert advisors.
“Security is a priority for us and always has been,” Morris said.
In January 2020, the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office said security personnel at Chautauqua would no longer be designated as “special deputies.” The Sheriff’s Office had noted that security personnel, for several years, operated under the premise that they were special deputies appointed by the sheriff.
However, citing opinions by the New York State Sheriff’s Association, Chautauqua County Law Department and Sheriff James Quattrone, it was determined there was no authority to appoint security personnel as special deputies.
“The change in status was communicated to Chautauqua Institution authorities earlier in the year when it was discovered that there was no such authority, which places Chautauqua County, Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office and any individuals operating under the false premise that they are ‘special deputies’ under potential liability and other legal consequences,” the Sheriff’s Office said in 2020.
After the announcement, Chautauqua officials said they were considering pursuing both constable and peace officer status for its officers.
Following Friday’s attack, several commented on the “special deputies” and move to remove their designation. Quattrone, using his personal account, responded to one comment on a story posted by The Post-Journal to Facebook on Rushdie. He said Chautauqua Institution, New York state troopers, the FBI and the Sheriff’s Office have been providing security during events since early this year.
“There were uniformed officers of the Sheriff’s Office and State Police present along with security members,” Quattrone commented.
He added, “While we are committed to keeping our entire community as safe as possible, we also need to follow the laws New York State has in place.”
Morris said discussing Chautauqua’s security protocol in detail would “negatively impact the effectiveness of the plan.” However, she said officials were “absolutely doing a close review, along with law enforcement and other experts. And, yes, we are immediately enhancing protocols.”
Chautauqua said access to the grounds was being limited to pass holders, those residing or renting on the grounds and to staff.
“While some programs may be modified or canceled at a presenter or artist’s request, it is our intention to produce the full schedule of public Institution programs for the rest of the Summer Assembly,” Chautauqua said in a statement posted to its website.