Capitol one of the most protected

By ANDREW TANGEL State Journal Staff Writer Published:

How safe is Kentucky's statehouse?

The question arises after highly publicized security breaches at government buildings across the nation in recent years and heightened fears of terrorism after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Visitors to Kentucky's Capitol and its Annex won't find the same security rigmarole as at airports and federal buildings. Metal detectors greet visitors at both buildings but there are no x-ray machines keeping visitors waiting in long lines. Inside, a small force of state troopers patrols the halls.

Security at the Capitol may seem relatively relaxed, but Kentucky - with its metal detectors at visitors' entrances, electronic card-accessed doors, and barriers to restrict automobile access - has what the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) says is one of the nation's most protected state Capitols.

"Any of the capitols that have put in the metal detectors," said Kae Warnock, a NCSL research analyst, "and instituted searches at the door are considered the more secure capitols now, and because Kentucky has done that puts them in the realm of the more secure capitols."

"Nothing's fool-proof," said Sgt. Joe Milam, who heads the state police Legislative Security Detail. "But I think, with the resources that we've got now and the way that we're all understaffed, we're doing a real good job."

Security at the Capitol, as at virtually every government building in the nation after 9/11, was tightened with new gadgets and procedures.

Still, Kentucky's gun laws may undermine Capitol security. Anyone can legally carry a firearm, openly or concealed, into the Capitol or Annex - a fact raising concerns that a bloody scene of gun violence could unfold in Frankfort.

When Milam came to the Capitol to work with the legislative security detail in the late 1990s, the building had few armed guards, no metal detectors, and anyone could enter at any door.

"When I came here," said Milam, "it was a security nightmare."

For more on this story, see the latest State Journal.

Want to leave your comments?

Sign in or Register to comment.