Capitol security changes coming
Preservation Board to decide on metal detectors
Updated: Wednesday, 24 Mar 2010, 4:00 PM CDT
Published : Monday, 22 Mar 2010, 5:41 PM CDT
* Carla Castaño
AUSTIN (KXAN) - In the coming months, the Texas Preservation Board will approve recommendations that likely will ramp up security at the Capitol, possibly including metal detectors at all entrances to the building.
While the metal detectors are still a question mark, other steps are already being taken in the wake of a foiled shooting attempt at the Capitol earlier this year. A mass notification system for Capitol employees is in the works. Training is underway to add bomb-sniffing dogs around the building, and there are already expanded bike patrols.
Texas Senate and House Administration Committees held a joint session on Capitol security on Monday. This comes after an incident last January involving Fausto Cardenas,24, of Houston. Troopers said he fired several gunshots on the south steps of the Capitol. Cardenas has been charged with deadly conduct and faces up to 10 years in prison.
Following the January shooting, all members of the House and Senate Administration Committees agreed Capitol security, handled by the Department of Public Safety, needed to be tightened. Lawmakers are remaining tight-lipped about what exactly they heard during the closed-door meeting.
"We’re not going to talk about any of their recommendations,” said Senator Tommy Williams, Chair of the Senate Administration Committee.
The major point of disagreement on Capitol security is whether or not metal detectors should go in at the entrances.
“I don't think it would have done a thing at all to stop the incident that happened a couple months ago I do think there are some logistical issues,” said Rep. Charlie Geren, Chair of the House Adminstration Committee.
Meanwhile, there are others like Senator John Whitmire, a Democrat from Houston, who feels strongly the detectors should and will go in.
"We're going to make it secure,” Whitmire said. “We’re going to use metal detectors. The question is, do we do it before we have a tragedy or do wait and do it after a tragedy? I would hope smart people would do it ahead of time."
However, some are concerned about adding metal detectors to the entrances of the Capitol will prevent people from coming to the building.
“I want to see to make sure the people of Texas have the freedom to go through the Capitol here without searching,” said Rep. Hubert Vo of West Houston.
Ultimately, the six members of the Texas State Preservation Board will make the decision but that meeting has not yet been scheduled.