JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - State officials plan to hire private security guards at the Missouri Capitol to relieve police from staffing entryway metal detectors.
The plans, if implemented, would mark the first time that private guards have been deployed at the Statehouse, officials said Thursday.
Private guards have been used at some state buildings elsewhere in Missouri since the early 1980s.
Metal detectors were installed last October at the Capitol and other major state buildings after the United States responded with military action in Afghanistan because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Since then, the metal detectors have been staffed by a mix of law enforcement agencies, including the state Capitol Police, Highway Patrol, Water Patrol, Conservation Department and Parks Division.
The new duties have resulted in large amounts of overtime and taken some officers away from their normal patrols.
"We didn't think that it was cost-effective to have fully trained police officers posted at check points to do this kind of work. It can be adequately done by a security guard," said Capitol Police Chief Lou Tedeschi, whose agency patrols the Capitol and other state government buildings in Cole County.
Gov. Bob Holden is asking lawmakers to provide around $200,000 to hire private security guards as soon as April 1 - a key seasonal date for returning park rangers and water patrol officers to their normal duties, Tedeschi said.
Holden's proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 includes an additional $891,653 to contract with a private security firm and hire two Capitol Police sergeants to oversee the arrangement.
Besides the Statehouse, the private guards also would be placed at the state health laboratory and the Truman State Office Building, which is adjacent to the Capitol, Tedeschi said.
Holden's homeland security adviser, Tim Daniel, had recommended the use of metal detectors and employee security badges as one of the first steps toward improving Capitol security.
"It has always been my intent to outsource a private security system, and we're attempting to do that now," Daniel said Thursday while speaking to the annual Missouri Press Association and The Associated Press Day at the Capitol. "But government doesn't move as fast as we would like."
Private guards already provide most of the security at the state office building in Kansas City, said Mark Allen, assistant director for the state Division of Facilities Management. They also are used successfully at state buildings in St. Louis, Springfield and St. Joseph, he said.
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Whether hiring state law officers or a private security company, "the decisions are the same in the sense that you want well-trained courteous, professional, good appearing, physically fit staff, and you try to do that for the best economic value," Allen said.