You will see changes soon when you go to a city council meeting. Metal detectors and bag searches will be part of the new procedure. Inside the chambers a five foot high glass partition will separate the gallery from the administration and city councillors.
“No councillor wanted to do it. The ones that supported it, did so reluctantly,” said Coun. Michael Walters. “The vote that we made was on the pony-wall. The metal detectors and the bag searches was in the purview of the city manager advised by corporate security that that was the right approach to take.”
“There’s more than council at stake here, there’s staff at stake. Ultimately everybody sort of reluctantly supported it.”
“No councillors are doing hand stands or cartwheels about this. This is not something that we asked for,” Walters said. “This was advice given by our corporate security folks that there’s been enough of a change in messages through to council or to the city that they feel this is warranted.”
Those messages include death threats to individual councillors over the years. The rhetoric has escalated over the years. Coun. Mike Nickel said he’s had three death threats in his public career.
“It’s a question of if they want to get ya, it won’t be in council chambers. It’ll be outside,” Nickel said. “Maybe walking out my front door. My wife gets horrified at that fact so we don’t talk about it.”
Nickel wouldn’t divulge the vote at Monday’s closed door meeting of Council Services Committee, although he did confirm he voted against the additional wall that will be erected in front of the podium that the public addresses council from during public hearings. The wall was suggested by corporate security as a means to stall any one who might rush the front of the room, giving security a few extra seconds of time to respond.
Late Thursday afternoon the city released the minutes of the meeting that show the no votes were from Tony Caterina, Ben Henderson, Scott McKeen and Nickel.
Nickel said the wall isn’t needed, if the other security measures are taken outside the chambers.
“They have these detectors there. This is kind of a standard sort of procedure that’s going on. So if we have that already being done at our front door, before people come into the meeting, why do we need to create this artificial barrier in our council chambers that says to the public that perhaps we’re scared of them?”
Walters said this discussion has been council’s radar since Calgary made a similar move a year ago.
A peace officer is positioned at the front left of the chambers. It’s been that way since the emotional airport debate. Security is now also stationed in the committee meeting room during meetings there after a shouting incident involving a member of the audience. Ironically, that committee meeting was in the council chambers.
The metal detectors will be portable, and moved from outside the chambers to the committee meeting room, based on the schedule.