Reporting Pat Kessler
ST. PAUL (WCCO) — The State Capitol may be Minnesota’s most visible and open public building. But how safe is the Capitol and the buildings around it?
A special state commission is recommending security upgrades for the 17-building state Capitol complex, which houses thousands of state workers, and daily visitors numbering thousands more.
A draft report is recommending wide-reaching security upgrades including significant changes to the historic Capitol building itself to head off possible threats.
Unlike many public buildings, the State Capitol does not use metal detectors or restricted access.
Until recently, it had few security cameras. But all of that could change.
“There’s a lot more tension, anger, worry in the minds of voters,” said State Senator Warren Limmer, (R) Maple Grove. “Sometimes that gets out of hand and it comes into the Capitol.”
Limmer helped push a review of security guidelines after Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot and people around her were killed. But security concerns have been mounting since 9/11.
Loud protests are increasingly common at the Capitol, and security officers say they’re alarmed at how easy it could be to plan a terror event.
Work is nearly complete on a new $6 million loading dock and underground tunnel across the street from the Capitol, replacing a dangerous century-old loading dock attached to the building.
The draft report recommends nearly doubling the number of armed and unarmed security officers (from 42 to 79), creating a new position of Emergency Director and it recommends developing a list of extensive physical changes to the Capitol building — balancing openness and safety.
“We want to be open to the public, but at the same time, we have to be secure,” said Limmer. “Not only for our sake, but for other people who visit the capitol.”
The Minnesota Legislature could take up some security upgrades as soon as next year.