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Capitol security to tighten

Capitol security to tighten

December 22nd, 2016 by Sam Richardson in Local News

Photo by Julie Smith /News Tribune.

Gov.-elect Eric Greitens has requested new and enhanced security measures for the Missouri Capitol, including the installation of X-ray machines and metal detectors.

"Our new governor asked for these machines. They're in place, but I don't know yet when we will begin using them," Sen. Jeanie Riddle, R-Fulton, chairwoman of the new Joint Committee on Capitol Security, said Wednesday night.

The X-ray and metal detector stations are now installed in the south and west entrances on the first floor of the Capitol. Operators have been trained on use of the machines and are awaiting word on when their duties will begin.

Riddle said it was uncertain if Greitens would order the new security stations operational for the opening of the new session of the General Assembly on Wednesday, Jan. 4, for his Inauguration on Monday, Jan. 9 or for after the Inaugural. The screening of the thousands of schoolchildren and other visitors who tour the Capitol each year will pose a challenge for the new operators and the security equipment they will operate, Riddle, a former teacher, said.

She said the committee, created through legislation passed by the General Assembly in May, gives the state's legislative arm of government a formal role with the governor and the executive branch in discussing and managing the security systems employed at the Capitol. She said the General Assembly and specifically its leadership has not yet had a voice in the operation of and security protocol for the Capitol.

The Office of Administration, Capitol Police Department, Cole County Sheriff's Department, Missouri Highway Patrol and Department of Public Safety are all involved with security at the Capitol, Riddle said.

Retiring Sheriff Greg White and his deputies "have been awesome to work with and have provided us in the General Assembly with a really great resource," Riddle said. The sheriff's department supports the work of the Capitol Police, Sheriff-elect John Wheeler said Wednesday night, and the Patrol furnishes the governor with an executive security detail in the Capitol, at the Executive Mansion and wherever he may be inside or outside Missouri.

Riddle, her Capitol Security Committee co-chairman Rep. Galen Higdon, R-St. Joseph, and Adam Crumbliss, chief clerk of the House of Representatives, all reported they were awaiting an announcement from the Office of Administration, which is the ultimate authority in the Capitol and in matters of security, on the date for launch of operations for the X-ray and metal detectors.

Current Commissioner of Administration Doug Nelson has not announced plans for the security upgrades. His spokeswoman, Ryan Burns, said Wednesday Nelson did not comment on ongoing security protocols.

The governor-elect is expected to name Nelson's successor in the near term, Crumbliss said Wednesday.

In her role as chairwoman, Riddle said earlier, "This joint committee will serve a supervisory role that makes recommendations on the general supervision and security of the Capitol building and grounds, the parking garages and other state-owned buildings in the immediate vicinity of the Capitol grounds that houses any members or staff of the General Assembly."

Jefferson City Sen. Mike Kehoe, the majority leader, who is an active participant in the launch of the new joint committee, said, "I believe, as we remodel this Capitol complex, one of the big concerns that many people have — in a very bipartisan way and at all levels of this building — is how is our security in the world we live in? I believe you'll see — as plans unfold, start to move forward with what various pieces will happen inside the building — there will be some security plans put in place that still will allow open access to the public but would make (security) a little bit tighter."