Questions about Capitol security continue to plague legislators’ minds

By Benjamin Peters

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – For those wondering, it seems that the metal detectors in the Missouri State Capitol are there to stay, for at least this fiscal year.

The security measures, which require visitors and their possessions to pass through metal detectors and X-ray machines, were first installed in January. The move was met with some opposition, particularly some legislators, and that only intensified when Gov. Eric Greitens lifted a ban on the concealed carrying of weapons in the building, which some lawmakers said was pointless, as the security measures only served to inconvenience visitors and school kids on field trips. The security measures even led one group to cancel their annual lobby day.

Before the measures were put in place, visitors, and employees alike could enter the building through a number of open doors. Now, even state employees are required to use a badge to enter, though they have access to some doors that the general public does not.

Many have questioned whether the increased security measures were needed in Jefferson City’s crown jewel, particularly the use of the metal detectors.

In fact, the House Budget Committee during session stripped funding from the state budget for those security measures, instead authorizing the Missouri Capitol Police to hire five more officers.

But now, that very appropriation is becoming another issue between legislators and the Governor, as a number of lawmakers have begun questioning why the metal detectors are still operational.

“The General Assembly appropriated $250K in the FY18 budget to hire an additional five security officers. The metal detectors will continue to operate,” Department of Public Safety Communications Director Mike O’Connell said in an email.

Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, the House Budget chairman, says that the $250k appropriation was meant for saturation patrols in the Capitol, increasing the presence on each floor.

As for paying for the metal detectors, those were already paid for when they were purchased after 9/11.

During the session, they were manned by contractors, who replaced Highway Patrol troopers as the guardians of the general public entrances. But the General Assembly denied the funds for that, meaning that when their agreed upon contract is up, there are no longer any funds to pay them to serve as the gatekeepers.

But the question is this: how the metal detectors are going to remain operational? And if that contract ended with the fiscal year, then how are the contractors still there?

The answers to those questions are still unanswered, despite multiple attempts to reach out to the Department of Public Safety, Office of Administration, or the Governor’s Office.

This story originally appeared on The Missouri Times.

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