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Municipalities Tighten Building Access

July 24, 2003

BOSTON (AP) _ On Wednesday morning, after months of tight wartime security, Boston decided to let municipal employees walk into City Hall with just the flash of a badge. Within just hours, however, that policy was dropped.

The deadly shooting inside New York’s City Hall that very morning has prompted some local governments around the country to rethink their security precautions.

In Boston, all City Hall visitors, employees and councilmen _ everyone except the mayor _ are now required once more to go through the metal detectors.

Wednesday, ``ironically, was the first day since we started the war with Iraq that we said employees could go through with just their IDs,″ said Michael Galvin, Boston’s chief of basic city services. ``We never can let our guard down.″

From coast to coast, government security officials have become accustomed since Sept. 11 to yo-yoing between orange and yellow security alerts. Now, with the shooting in New York, they are assessing in particular whether elected officials _ and their guests _ should be allowed to bypass security.

The New York gunman was able to bypass metal detectors because he walked in with Councilman James E. Davis, the man he later killed. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that he and other council members have routinely bypassed the magnetometer but would change that policy immediately. Bloomberg went through the metal detector on Thursday morning.

At Miami’s City Hall, security guards in the past waved some people through. But Police Chief John Timoney said that will not happen anymore. He said only the mayor, city commissioners and other people who work in the building will be able to walk in without being screened by the metal detectors.

``You want to reach some happy medium that allows people who have a right″ to be in the building while keeping others out, Timoney said.

Timoney said security would also be increased on busier commission meeting days, with one uniformed police officer added to the two security guards and metal detectors normally at the building’s single entrance.

In Chicago, visitors to City Hall have to go through a metal detector only when the full City Council is meeting. Mayor Richard Daley said he does not plan on making any changes, blaming the New York tragedy on a lapse in procedure.

``Someone violated the protocol and two people are dead,″ Daley said. ``It’s a very sad situation.″

A few Chicago aldermen, however, said they would consider tighter security measures, including more frequent use of metal detectors.

In San Francisco, where Wednesday’s violence recalled the 1978 assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk at City Hall, Mayor Willie Brown said he thinks the security there is adequate.

``We’ve been on high alert since 1978 with the assassination of Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Milk,″ Brown said in an interview with KTVU-TV. ``But 9-11 caused us to be even more (security-conscious). ... We’ve actually stopped two people with small-armed weapons who had been en route to do something in City Hall.″

As for going through the metal detectors, ``there is only one person who doesn’t _ that’s me,″ Brown said.

At the Statehouse in Boston, state employees and others who work in the building _ including reporters _ continued to be allowed in without passing through a metal detector Thursday.

The state’s 200 senators and representatives will also still be given a free pass, Lt. Stuart Molk said, ``no questions asked.″

``I’m not going to ask the governor for his ID. I’m not going to ask the treasurer,″ said Molk, who works for the Department of Conservation and Recreation. ``Not if I want to keep my job.″


Editors: Associated Press writers Ron Harris in San Francisco; Phuong Le in Chicago; Don Mitchell in Denver; and John Pain in Miami contributed to this report.

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