Minnesota committee to examine Capitol security

Dayton

A dormant state security committee is being reactivated to discuss how the public, state employees and Minnesota officials should be protected in the Capitol complex.

Gov. Mark Dayton, top legislators and others made that announcement Tuesday after meeting in the governor’s office.

“Our principal concern in the meeting was … how do we protect the public,” Dayton told reporters afterwards.

Protecting public officials “was almost secondary,” Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, said.

The meeting was called after the Jan. 8 Arizona shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords raised questions about how public officials across the country are protected.

Dayton said the committee, due to report back in six weeks, will examine the philosophy of security in public buildings as well as providing specific recommendations with price tags attached.

The committee will include representatives of the executive, legislative and judicial branches.

Legislative Auditor James Nobles said the state needs “a sustained effort” to improve security. A report his office issued two years ago found a number of security problems, but lawmakers have done little to fill those gaps.

Most legislators who have talked about security since the Giffords shooting are reluctant for Minnesota to install metal detectors at the Capitol’s public entrances, but Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, called for them in the nearby courts building.

Dayton earlier said he did not like the idea of metal detectors, but on Tuesday would not be specific about what he preferred. He said he will wait until the security committee reports back.

The governor, in office two weeks, said the public is well protected now.

“No one can guarantee … somebody complete 1,000 percent protection in any public place,” Dayton said.

Many county and city office buildings are protected by metal detectors, as are about half of state capitol buildings.

Dayton, echoed by others in Tuesday’s meeting, said the key is “striking this balance between accessibility and protection.”

Besides the Capitol, the complex north of downtown St. Paul includes buildings with the Supreme Court, Appeals Court, state legislative offices and a variety of buildings with state agencies.

Unarmed Capitol security officers patrol the Capitol complex, with a few armed state troopers. During legislative sessions, the State Patrol brings in retired troopers to help.

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