Security screening may start at next meeting

400-Loran-LuedersSt Augustine Chief of Police, Loran K Lueders, tells Historic City News that he is ready to implement the first step in an enhanced security plan approved by city commissioners concerned that the existing safety measures do not provide adequate protection for them during public meetings.

If the commissioners approve Item 8 on the consent agenda at their regular business meeting on Monday, June 10, 2013, as recommended by City Manager John Regan, the stepped-up security measures will be implemented at the next regular meeting, June 24, 2013.

“This first step consists of all persons and bags entering the Commission Room to be subject to search,” Lueders explained. “Persons entering the meeting will have to empty their pockets and be scanned with a metal detector wand before being allowed entry into the Commission Room.”

The chief explained in a memorandum to the city manager that the described security screening process will occur upon re-entry, also.

In order to inform attendees, the walkway leading to the Commission Room will be posted, announcing the fact that all persons and bags are subject to search and that no weapons are allowed in the Commission Room.

As with any new program, it will cause confusion and delay getting citizens into the Commission Room, Lueders remarked. In passing the notice along in the consent agenda, Regan commented that the process is expected to run smoothly, the longer it is in place.

The plan that was proposed at the April 22, 2013 meeting includes:

• Change the commission table to make it bullet resistant.
• Change the door behind the Commissioners so that it opens outward into the room behind them, instead swinging inward into the commission room.
• Place a railing with a swinging gate across the room at your desk, and in front of the podium.
• Purchase two metal detecting wands.
• Require all people entering the room to place their metal objects into a basket, then a Police Officer will use the metal detecting wand to ensure that there are no further weapons or contraband upon their person.
• If the subjects are carrying a bag, it will be visually searched.
• Place an additional Police Officer at the back door of the commission meeting room during the entire meeting to ensure that everyone entering and re-entering the room is screened.

Cost estimates exceed $15,000 and include an ongoing salary and benefits commitment for a law enforcement officer to stand guard at the door and frisk citizens with a hand-held metal detector as they approach.

The largest single expenditure is $8,000 for a “bullet-resistant table”.

The smallest itemized expenditure is $10 each for “plastic baskets”.

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