- Associated Press - Saturday, November 22, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Officials with the Arkansas secretary of state’s office say they want to meet privately with state lawmakers to discuss tightening security at the Capitol.

Some lawmakers have questioned whether current safeguards are adequate after security was tightened at the entrance of a building west of the Capitol.

Doug Matayo, chief deputy for Republican Secretary of State Mark Martin, has told members of a legislative subcommittee that officials want to meet privately with lawmakers since “it involves Capitol security and potentially some very sweeping changes that we may wish to propose,” the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Saturday (https://bit.ly/1xDiPdG ).

In a letter to Martin earlier this year, subcommittee members said they “have grown concerned that the current policies and their implementation may be insufficient to ensure the safety of our members, staff and other individuals within the State Capitol Building on a daily basis.”

In response, they received a memo from Capitol Police Chief Darrell Hedden outlining steps that could be taken to make the building more secure. Among other things, Hedden said the Capitol could be closed on weekends and holidays and a traffic tunnel beneath the steps and next to the east entrance could be closed to the public.

“All security operations should be consolidated under The State Capitol Police,” Hedden wrote. The Capitol police force includes 22 officers and dispatchers, according to Martin’s spokesman Laura Labay.

The House has hired a few private security officers to aid Arkansas State Police troopers in providing security in the House during recent legislative sessions, said House spokesman Cecillea Pond-Mayo.

“Ultimately the State Capitol and all other facilities can be secured as tight as humanly possible, but this will take a major and lasting financial commitment from all parties involved, especially the legislative branch where all budgeting is derived,” Hedden wrote.

Neither Hedden nor Matayo cited any particular cost estimates.

“We are one of the rare Capitols where people still have access to their elected officials, and we like that, but we want to be cognizant of the need for safety and security for members and executive officers that still work out of this building, so that’s this balancing act,” Matayo said.


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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