Presidential inaugurations are massive events, taking thousands of people working to pull off a grand – and safe – showcase of American democracy.
On Jan. 20, when Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the nation’s 45th president, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Mario Scalora again played a key role to keep both revelers and protesters safe.
This was the third inauguration to which Scalora lent his expertise. The professor of psychology and director of the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center is a nationally known threat-assessment expert who has consulted with the U.S. Capitol Police on a variety of issues for about 20 years.
Recently, his role at inaugurations has been to collaborate with officers to assess threats received against the event or the people involved, as well as assist with monitoring suspicious behavior among the crowd as the transition of power occurs at the Capitol.
“The amount of threat activity always increases against the institution and the people within the institution when you have a large event like this,” Scalora said. “We want people to pay attention to the show itself and let us work behind the scenes to keep them safe.”
Scalora was in one of several command centers at the inauguration and worked with several different federal and local agencies throughout the day.
“Most people don’t realize how many people are on the ground working to make these events safe,” Scalora said. “No one agency does it all. All the agencies – such as the Capitol police, D.C. police, Secret Service, the military – put in a lot of effort and work together very well.”
Scalora praised the work of all agencies involved. He said the atmosphere at this inauguration was different from the last two at which he worked, partly because of the contentious political divide illustrated by Trump’s electoral victory.
“The nature of our political discourse has become more challenging, where you have two very diametrically opposed groups,” Scalora said. “Most were very respectful in exercising their First Amendment rights.
“We did have some who acted out with violence, unfortunately, but I thought our agencies did very well to keep the event safe for all concerned.