Tempe is boosting security at City Hall in response to shootings at municipal buildings in other states, including the killing of five people last month in Kirkwood, Mo.
The city will post an armed private security guard in the upside-down pyramid that’s the home of the City Council and other top managers. For years, an unarmed park ranger had monitored the flow of visitors.
Also, Tempe police have a greater presence at City Council meetings. Historically, one uniformed officer stood at the rear of the council chambers, where visitors entered. Now, two officers are posted closer to the elected officials in the front of the chambers.
City Manager Charlie Meyer ordered the new measures after speaking with police about a larger review of security at municipal buildings. Police are working on a security report, but Meyer said he didn’t want to wait for that before rolling out what he considered obviously needed improvements in the wake of the Kirkwood shooting.
“It was just one of those kinds of things that was a real wake-up call,” Meyer said.
The armed security guard won’t come with any immediate new expense; the city will shift funds away from one vacant park ranger position. Park rangers cost slightly more than private security anyway when benefits are factored in, Tempe spokeswoman Nikki Ripley said.
One measure under consideration is a metal detector at City Hall, Meyer said.
Scottsdale installed a metal detector at its City Hall after a mail bomb attack in 2004 injured Don Logan, then the city’s director of diversity and dialogue. Some complained the screening discouraged visitors and the detector was later removed. But some Scottsdale officials have recently discussed putting it in use again.
Meyer said he fears a detector would seem too unfriendly. But he also is concerned about the safety of city employees, given attacks in other communities.
“It’s not an esoteric discussion anymore,” Meyer said. “It’s becoming real and that’s a sad commentary.”
This doesn’t come after any direct threats on Tempe officials.
But one Tempe City Council decision played a role with a man who is accused of threatening a massacre at last month’s Super Bowl in Glendale.
Tempe rejected a liquor license request for a restaurant and bar called The Haunted Castle. The council frowned on owner Kurt Havelock’s plans after it became aware of an Internet blog he wrote suggesting the real name would have been Drunkenstein’s. Council members don’t explain their decision on their advisory vote, which carry no legal weight because the State Liquor Board has final say on licensing.
But police say Havelock wrote in a letter he planned a violent attack to retaliate for what Tempe did. Havelock was within sight of the Super Bowl on game day and was armed with an assault rifle and 200 rounds of ammunition. But he, instead, turned himself into Tempe police and the FBI before kickoff, officials say.