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Arkansas Newspapers Beefing About Beefed Up Security

February 6, 1991

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ A campaign by the Arkansas secretary of state to beef up security at the state Capitol has some people beefing about him.

Since Bill McCuen introduced metal detectors and locked the doors at the Capitol, he has been taunted in local columns as Little Rock’s answer to Barney Fife, the overeager deputy portrayed by Don Knotts on the old Andy Griffith television series.

Columnist Meredith Oakley of the Arkansas Democrat even quipped that McCuen might soon start strip searching all ″pretty young things″ who enter the Capitol.

McCuen said the columnist had nothing to fear. She answered, ″I’m 39 and probably not what he’d call pretty.″

Bob Lancaster, a columnist at the Arkansas Gazette, wrote about how he got caught in a crowd of people backed up at a metal detector. The device would not stop beeping even after one man emptied and turned his pockets inside out ″and showed them his shoes didn’t have taps,″ Lancaster wrote.

McCuen said Tuesday that because both the Democrat and the Gazette have security systems, he saw nothing wrong with the Capitol having its own.

He’s been angered by the Democrat’s coverage of his security system and by its stories about a trip he made to Western states with two female staff members.

Stationary metal detectors belonging to the state police were placed at the Capitol’s two main entrances on Jan. 28. Other doors are locked except at the start of the day, when they are manned by guards with hand-held detectors. All Capitol employees except lawmakers must wear identification badges.

″I think it’s an inconvenience to both the employees and the public. It’s silly,″ said Bob Wimberly, a lobbyist for small businesses.

Said McCuen: ″I think in these circumstances, if somebody wanted to do something - whether it be Saddam Hussein or whoever - they might look for the point of least resistance. That’s not going to be here.″

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