A pair of lawmakers are seeking public hearings and a vote by the legislature on the heightened security measures installed at the state Capitol last year.
Last year’s legislative leaders authorized Legislative Management to beef up the state Capitol’s security with a new $600,000 system. The changes included the installation of metal detectors at the public entrances of the Capitol and Legislative Office Building.
Rep. Bob Godfrey, D-Danbury, and Sen. Joan Hartley, D-Waterbury, co-sponsored a resolution on the new system. The document calls for two public hearings on the security upgrades and an eventual vote on the system by lawmakers.
Godfrey said Thursday he has pragmatic and philosophical objections to the heightened security. On the pragmatic side he said the system has worked poorly.
As part of the upgrade, three previously public entrances were converted into locked vestibules which can be unlocked using a government-issued swipe card. The vestibules include a sensory system designed to ensure that only one person is entering the building. The door stays locked if the system detects another person.
“Both Sen. Hartley and I have been caught in some of the airlocks. I was particularly unhappy because a disembodied voice announced to me that I was two people. I know I’m big, but I didn’t think I was that big,” Godfrey joked.
Although Godfrey said some of the system’s issues have been corrected, he said certain constitutional officers, administration officials, and family members of legislators must still go through metal detectors in order to enter the Capitol.
Philosophically, he said the security obstacles send the wrong message to the public.
“Barricading ourselves from our public, from our friends, from our neighbors, from our constituents, from voters, from people who have that constitutional right to petition the government for redress of grievances — we’re cutting ourselves off from them,” he said.
How has the new security been received by other legislators?
“I have yet to have a colleague say ‘this is a good idea and I love it,’” he said. “Some just kind of shrug it off, others are vehemently opposed to it.”
Godfrey said he would like to see the system removed but acknowledged the money has already been spent. “Maybe we can sell it to Bradley” International Airport, he said.
The security measures were installed without a vote of the Legislative Management Committee. The committee met twice in 2013, but did not meet in 2014. No vote was ever taken by the committee on the new security measures.