City security staff have left the door open to a watered down version of the changes they want to bring in to City Hall. Original talk of bag searches, metal detectors and a 4’7” high wall inside the council chambers was debated by a very divided city council.
In the end, it was decided to have the administration bring in the final measures without city council debating it. It’s still possible metal detectors might only be used on a case by case basis when a threat has been made, or city staff sense that a council debate will be controversial.
“You may see a pony wall, you may not. You may see some bag screening equipment or you may not,” Walter Trocenko, the city’s head of its real estate branch told reporters Tuesday. “There were some suggestions today that maybe we don’t implement everything universally all at the same time, maybe we stagger it or stage it.”
What council said, did have an influence, Trocenko conceded.
On one side is Coun. Dave Loken who said the decision should be left up to the security experts that are paid by the city to provide input.
“There have been increased security measures in the chambers because an individual was threatening me,” Loken said. “I had that happen last term.”
“There’s been five to six plain clothes security people sitting in the audience at times, ready to react to something. They have no protection,” Loken said. “What they want is time and space to be able to react to something happening.”
Yet others like Coun. Ben Henderson said making it more difficult to have the public come into City Hall will make them angrier. He said he’s seen it, and felt it, at the legislature when Bill 11 contemplated opening health care to private competition as well as on Parliament Hill after 9/11.
“I think this is a mistake all over the place where we’re actually creating the very world that we’re trying to avoid,” Hendersen said.
“We’re giving into the fear of this and I would argue, because we do it to ourselves, the bad guys don’t have to do anything because we’ve already done it to ourselves.”
He said it’s ironic because Edmonton’s city council is considered one of the best chambers in the country according to other municipal politicians who’ve visited here. He also pointed out the only city councillor who’s been shot that he’s aware of is San Fransisco’s Harvey Milk, and that was by a co-worker.
A report, which will be sent privately to city councillors, on what the final changes will look like will be ready in two to three months.
“We do think now given the debate that we need to take this back and give you in one form or another a stronger recommendation, one way or the other,” city manager Linda Cochrane told council.
The report’s findings will come by way of a memo, and won’t be made public.