Beefing up security at state Capitol
October 10, 2007
DENVER ” Colorado lawmakers on Tuesday voted to beef up security at the state Capitol following a fatal shooting in July, but they stopped short of expanding protection to other state buildings, saying they don’t want to turn government buildings into fortresses.
Instead, the Joint Budget Committee approved hiring four more state troopers, seven security guards, two metal detectors, an X-ray machine and hand wands to protect and patrol the Capitol, which gets the most visitors. The plan will cost about $855,000 through June, the end of the current fiscal year.
The Capitol didn’t have metal detectors on July 16, when Aaron Snyder, 32, was shot outside Gov. Bill Ritter’s first-floor Capitol office.
Investigators said Snyder approached the governor’s office with a handgun and declared, “I am the emperor, and I’m here to take over state government.” A member of Ritter’s security detail killed him when he refused to back down.
Ritter had unveiled several recommendations ” drafted with input from Capitol workers and legislative leaders ” for better security at the Capitol as well as other state buildings. They included requiring state employees to use access-card devices and having more troopers patrol halls.
Ritter said his $1.6 million plan struck a balance between security and the building’s traditional openness.
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Visitors to the Capitol used to be able to enter through several entrances without going through security. After the shooting, the state patrol began requiring visitors to pass through metal detectors and have bags checked at an X-ray machine.
State Rep. Al White, R-Hayden, said the security plan worked because troopers stopped the gunman. He said limiting access sends the wrong message to citizens.
“I believe that the Capitol belongs to the citizens, and I think when the citizens don’t have ready access to their Capitol, then the whole concept of transparency is obstructed. The citizens already don’t trust us, and if they can’t get in easily to see what it is we do, then all I think we do is create additional mistrust,” White said.