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Minn. May See Bulk-Up of Capitol Security Force

Posted at: 11/30/2012 5:50 PM
By: Scott Theisen

A state panel is readying recommendations for firming up Minnesota Capitol safety that include a near-doubling of troopers and civilian security officers to watch over the seat of government and 16 nearby buildings, according to a draft report circulated Friday.
    
The report calling for the security bulk-up awaits approval from a task force led by Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon and comprised of legislators, law enforcement leaders and judicial branch designees. The Advisory Committee on Capitol Area Security will finalize recommendations during two upcoming meetings with a goal of winning action from the 2013 Legislature.
    
The preliminary report seeks growth in state trooper ranks from two to 12 and other security personnel from 40 to 67.
    
"The Capitol Security Division presently lacks the funding to adequately staff the Capitol Area with sufficient officers and troopers to address identified threats and vulnerabilities," the draft says.
    
To pay for an expansion, the report says lawmakers should move to a system of centralized funding based on direct legislative appropriation and away from one where state agencies dig into their own budgets to pay for a security presence. The change is seen as a way to stage security based more on risks than on available resources of building tenants.
    
The panel also found that detailed emergency preparedness and response plans "do not exist" for the entire 140-acre campus in the heart of a large city. One solution under consideration would be to add a complex-wide emergency manager.
    
Some of the committee's work was done in private so members could candidly discuss security shortcomings, which are described in vague terms in the document. One proposal is to develop and conduct more security exercises.
    
Unlike other states, Minnesota Capitol visitors and staff don't pass through metal detectors. The report is silent on whether they should. It suggests the Department of Administration rank and price out various security infrastructure upgrades.
    
For now, the main tools of Capitol complex security are its network of 102 duress alarms, 450 security cameras, 700 doors accessed only by swipe cards and the uniformed officers on patrol by foot and car.
    
State Patrol Capt. Bob Meyerson, director of Capitol security, said in an interview that the technology is important but it can't replace bodies.
    
"It's hard to beat a human presence to deter or detect criminal activity," he said in arguing for the staffing increase.
    
The panel next convenes on Dec. 17.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)