July 20th, 2024

Council approves motion to address chamber security

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on January 25, 2024.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

City council on Tuesday voted unanimously on a motion put forward by Acting Mayor John Middleton-Hope to direct administration to return to a future meeting with a proposed range of options and scope for a potential comprehensive security audit of the first floor of City Hall.

The motion at the start of the meeting came the same day a lone gunman entered City Hall in Edmonton, throwing a molotov cocktail and firing shots from a long gun prompting the building to be locked down.

The Molotov cocktail was thrown from the second floor of the atrium before a man was detained by security.

Some members of City of Lethbridge staff aren’t feeling safe with their backs to the gallery.

Councillor Ryan Parker said the idea is to be pro-active, noting there have been times in council chambers be it council meetings or SPCs the atmosphere can get a little heated with people wanting to talk to council members or approach the podium and “somewhat be aggressive, I think they’re kind-hearted but they can be aggressive.”

Parker noted there are no rules on decorum in council chambers unlike the Alberta legislature or Parliament, for example.

Middleton-Hope said the motion is “a very passive response to a request I made some time ago to evaluate proper security measures in this chamber. Not only as we’ve seen in Edmonton this afternoon an attack on this chamber or a similar chamber in Edmonton, I have scores of examples on my phone across this country of councils that have been attacked, council members that have been attacked, administrative people that have been attacked.”

The acting mayor said he wanted to “request a very clear direction is provided” Director of Corporate Services Jason Elliott and his staff “to ensure that a comprehensive security audit is performed on this chamber to ensure the protection of not only the chamber members but all of our staff who have to sit with their backs to the public.”

Middleton-Hope added that “putting up stanchions which we did once simply as a test met with disdain from some members of our council. At the end of the day, we’re talking about the safety of our people. And we need to ensure that from a risk management perspective, if not from a humanitarian perspective.”

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No one wants to see more partitions between Council members and the public, but as someone who has being a security officer at City Hall and has seen some very concerning issues, I would agree with this. The world has changed sadly and although many of the changes to the second floor resolved some of the actual threats which occurred, the Chambers needed some more security measures. There are maybe 15 steps from the main doors to the Chambers doors, so someone can enter the building in be in the Chambers in seconds, before the person at the security desk can bet out from behind the desk.
I remember having to stand between closed doors and a large group of loud and aggressive protesters who were trying to push their way into a ‘closed session’ of Council and at that time, those doors had no locks on them. I don’t believe they have locks on them yet.
The threats are real and this is a sad reflection of where society is at, in its slide into the abyss!

Last edited 5 months ago by ewingbt