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Should Metal Detectors be Installed In The State Capitol?

Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 4:59 PM

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A proposal has been introduced in the legislature for a study on whether to install permanent metal detectors at the Ohio Statehouse. The Governor wants them and so does the head of the department of Public Safety who was appointed by the Governor. But the people in charge of the Capitol building say it would be redundant and a waste of taxpayer dollars. Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports.

Just last year, Governor Kasich said this:

Kasich: “The one thing that I’ve wanted for a long time is I would like metal detectors in the Ohio Statehouse.”

That sparked a firestorm of debate.  Kasich’s predecessor, Governor Ted Strickland, had his working office in the Statehouse and didn’t want metal detectors.  But Kasich, whose working office is not in the Statehouse, says he thinks security needs to be beefed up at the state’s capitol.  But the people who oversee the Statehouse don’t think so. 

Dodd:"We’ve had no incidence here on Capitol Square in the history of the building and that’s because we do have many many security measures in place.”

Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board Spokesman Gregg Dodd says the Statehouse is actually one of the most secure buildings in the state even though visitors might not see much of it.

Dodd: “This is post 97 of the Ohio Highway Patrol and we have several cameras throughout the complex, both inside and outside, that are monitored 24 hours a day 7 days a week. And we do have several doors of the Statehouse with limited access.  And certainly we have several members of the Ohio highway Patrol patrolling both the grounds and interior of the building. In addition, Jo, we have 2canine units that are assigned to the Statehouse that certainly help with any bomb detection.”

In addition, Dodd says the Statehouse meets with the highway patrol on a weekly basis to assess the security needs of the building. And he says the Statehouse already has four portable metal detectors that can be set up with less than a half hours notice.

Dodd: “They are onsite. They are constantly checked to make sure they are working so they are ready to go.  The Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board feels that the security measures that are in place are certainly adequate and they balance open access along with security”

Dodd says permanent metal detectors would likely cost more than a million and a half dollars and would deter public access to the building especially if some of the 90 thousand school children who visit each year might be left standing in the cold, rain or bad weather, waiting for their tour.  Joe Andrews with the Ohio Department of Public Safety says the point of the security study being sought is not to make a case for permanent metal detectors at the Statehouse.

Andrews: “I don’t think that anybody has said permanent metal detectors need to placed here, I think we’ve just asked for the study to determine whether they need to be there.”
When asked why weekly security meetings with the highway patrol staff on site were not enough and why the temporary metal detectors now available at the Statehouse are rarely used, Andrews responds this way.

Andrews: “The Highway Patrol people who are there posted are not necessarily the experts who look at the entire infrastructure of the building.  And so what we are doing are taking a look at the entire process and what we’d like to do to determine whether the security needs to be increased.”

Andrews says he doesn’t know how much it will cost to do the security study. But he says proper security at the Statehouse is important.

Andrews: “Anything could happen at any time.  I think 9/11 made us all aware of that.”

The Statehouse’s Gregg Dodd says 23 capitol buildings throughout the country have permanent metal detectors.  He says several have put them in and pulled them out pretty quickly because they are cumbersome.  One footnote here metal detectors detect metal not intentions to be disruptive.  During Governor Kasich’s first State of the State speech, metal detectors were not in use and one protestor spoke out during the address.  On the other hand, metal detectors were in use at the Governor Kasich’s second state of the state speech at an elementary school in Steubenville and nine protestors had to be removed.

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