Metal detectors expected at the state capitol any day

Tuesday, January 6th 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY _ Security at the state Capitol, already tightened under the ``Code Orange'' terrorism alert, will be increased even more with the arrival of metal-detecting equipment this month.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol Maj. Kerry Pettingill, deputy director of the Oklahoma Department of Homeland Security, said shipping of the metal detectors, scheduled for mid-December, had been delayed.

Arrival is now expected this week.

``Hopefully, they will arrive tomorrow,'' Pettingill said. ``If that does take place, they should be operational by Monday, Jan. 12.''

That would be more than two weeks before the Feb. 3 start of the Legislature, when hundreds of visitors will be at the Capitol, along with 149 legislators and others who regularly work there.

The detectors will be operated by specially trained Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers and recently hired OHP personnel from other law enforcement agencies and the private security work force.

Some already were experts in the area of security screening, but all will receive training before manning their Capitol posts, Pettingill said.

Visitors entering main entrances to the Capitol in recent days have been greeted with a sign that bags and packages are subject to search. Usually, the entrances have been manned by a uniformed OHP trooper and new security officers dressed in blue blazers.

Pettingill said the increased security has not presented any problems to visitors so far.

``We have not heard anything negative,'' the official said. ``We are trying to make the process as easy as possible.

``Everybody seems to understand that a slight inconvenience here or there is worthwhile to try and stop something more inconvenient in the future.

Plans call for closing all but four entrances to the Capitol building, where the metal detectors will be in place.

Pettingill said details will be announced at a later date.

In the future, the use of detectors could be expanded to other state buildings, he said, adding: ``It's just a matter of funding.''

He said visitors to the Capitol should come prepared for a slight delay getting into the building. ``Obviously the bigger the group, the more time it will take,'' he said.

``We will try to process everyone as quickly as possible, but we have to do it in a matter that we are insuring everyone's safety as well,'' Pettingill said.