Public violence nationwide leads to new city security measures

CAROL MCGRAW Updated: February 1, 2013 at 12:00 am • Published: February 1, 2013

Getting into the City Administration Building downtown was fairly easy Friday despite new safety precautions that require people to pass the security desk, show photo identification and provide their name for an orange visitor’s badge.

People seemed pretty nonchalant, except for a guy who was last in a line of three, drumming his fingers impatiently on the security desk.

Another man, who said his name was Scooter, said, “They used to do this. It’s no big deal.”

The requirements are a return to procedures as they were several years ago. Mayor Steve Bach loosened the security process about a year and a half ago to create a more open welcoming atmosphere. His change of heart, according to chief of staff Laura Neumann came after the recent wave of nationwide violence in public spaces. Local problems didn’t spur the changes, which caught some people off guard this week because they were not announced.

“It’s for the safety of our employees and the public,” Neumann said.

An internal employee memo obtained by The Gazette emphasized that most city workers are “prohibited from possessing or using weapons at the workplace or during work hours.” City security guards will be more vigilant to ensure empoyees wear city identification, the memo said.

Officials say the city firearm policy for employees policy dates to 1993.

Non-employees with concealed carry permits are able to carry their weapons, officials said.

In the next two weeks, officials will examine safety issues including whether similar measures should be in place for the city’s other 129 buildings. Other changes could include having employees escort visitors to their destination and installing metal detectors and checking bags.

Detectors and bag checks are required at the nearby El Paso County Courthouse.

Police Chief Pete Carey said violent incidents can occur anywhere, recalling a police station that was shot up in another state. He said the sign-ins also will help with any evacuations, providing the number of people who are in the building. He said they could also eventually have lists of those invited to special events that could be checked off, thus speeding the check-in procedures.

“It’s a balancing act,” Carey said. “How to make it a welcoming and safe environment.”

Other changes could include more security people and equipment.

“It may end up costing taxpayers some money,” Neumann said.

Employees returning from lunch Friday said the procedures didn’t slow them down, and they voiced appreciation for the extra precautions.

“It’s good for our safety,” said Victoria McColm.

Another employee joked, “I don’t care what they do, as long as they let me in.”

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