Following the Jan. 8 shooting in Tucson, the city of Tempe has sped up the installation of X-ray machines and metal detectors at the Tempe City Council chambers.
The shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others in Tucson did not prompt the increase in security, but it did expedite the process, Tempe spokeswoman Nikki Ripley said.
“The equipment was purchased as part of a larger evaluation of security at City Hall some months ago,” Ripley said. “The installation has been moved up because of what unfortunately happened in Tucson.”
Similar equipment is already in use on the first three floors of City Hall and other government buildings, Ripley said.
The new security measures will be in use starting with the review session and formal Council meeting on Thursday. Anyone entering City Hall will have to pass through a metal detector and put bags through an X-ray machine.
Historically, two Tempe Police officers have been present in the chambers for all Council meetings, Ripley said. This will continue unchanged.
Tempe Police spokesman Sgt. Steve Carbajal previously told The State Press that security at other Tempe events, not related to official government meetings, will also remain unchanged.
City Manager Charlie Meyer said in a statement released Monday that Tempe still encourages residents to attend and participate in Council meetings.
“We want to provide an extra layer of protection for our residents, elected officials and other community members who participate in our public process,” Meyer said.
Third-year law student Joaquin Rios said he thinks the extra security measures are a good idea.
“It’s really easy for people to … be skeptical of politicians, but at the same time, there’s a certain risk in engaging in public service,” he said. “It’s important to recognize that and to take measures to ensure safety.”
Rios has attended several City Council meetings before and said he does not think the changes will impact attendance.
“It might have a bigger impact on people who have been in Tempe for a long time, since it was a small town, but for someone like myself who has grown up with security in government buildings, I don’t think it would discourage them,” Rios said. “There has to be a balance of privacy and the health and safety of the individuals who step up and engage in public service.”
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org