After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, some Wisconsin legislators are pushing for increased security in the Capitol.
Among the concerned lawmakers is Rep. Marlin Schneider, D-Wisconsin Rapids, who said the recent event demonstrates the need for a stricter policy. He said several measures are needed to ensure safety at the capital.
“I think we should consider blocking the Capitol entrance to vehicular travel,” Schneider said. “We also need to pick up security in the evening hours and in restricting access to the building.”
Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, agreed that the Capitol Police need to reevaluate their security system. However, he understands some government officials will be hard to convince about the necessity of additional measures.
“There are some who think this isn’t keeping with what historically the Capitol looks like,” Schultz said. “Part of the problem is the naíve notion people have on the way things always have been.”
In addition to restricted parking, Schultz said the state should consider erecting gates around the Capitol building and putting up more security cameras.
“While we are in the process of remodeling, we think it is time to install the needed security measures,” Schultz said. “Why wait until we have a threat?”
Immediately after the terrorist attack occurred this month, Gov. Scott McCallum and the Capitol Police responded quickly to prevent potential attacks in the state by increasing the number of police on duty and restricting access to state office buildings in the Madison and Milwaukee areas.
By 10:30 a.m. of Sept. 11, the state police had closed off all but one entrance to the Capitol and had deployed police around the perimeter of the building.
Capitol Police Chief Mike Metcalf would not comment on future security measures his department might take.
Tim Roby, spokesman for McCallum, said the governor wants to ensure the safety of employees and visitors at the Capitol but is not sure what future steps he will support.
“It remains to be seen, because the state budget is so tight,” Roby said. “[Increased security] is not out of the question, but the issue needs to be given serious debate.”
Responding to the attack, the governor named an anti-terrorist preparedness task force to review the state’s readiness to battle terrorism. Roby said the Wisconsin unit will work in conjunction with the President’s task force.
Although both McCallum and Attorney General Jim Doyle have expressed their concern over new measures making the Capitol less appealing, Schultz said they intend to increase security regardless.
“I don’t know this is really up to either gentleman,” Schultz said. “We want to work within the courts and the government, but it would be unbelievably foolish not to realize the real and present danger.”
Not all state legislators agree with Schultz.
Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, said while he favors some precautionary measures, such as ID cards for employees, he doesn’t believe legislators should overreact to the situation.
“The Capitol should be a building everyone in the state should have access to,” Pocan said. “Changing that would have the effect [the terrorists] wanted.”
Even though the rest of the country is on high alert following the attack, Roby said there is no reason to believe Wisconsin will be a target.
“It is important to stress we have received no threats,” Roby said. “There doesn’t appear to be any terrorist activity within the state.”
Furthermore, Pocan said that because the methods terrorists can use are virtually unlimited, it would be impossible to construct a foolproof system.
“If someone is going to fly a plane into the building, you’ll never have the people in place to prevent it,” Pocan said.