Phoenix City Council starts using metal detectors

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX – The city of Phoenix is stepping up security at City Council meetings, becoming one of only a few cities to use metal detectors.

The new security measures, which include checks of bags, briefcases and purses, were recommended in the wake of the shooting at Rep. Gabrielle Giffords “Congress on Your Corner” event in Tucson on Jan. 8. Six people, among them a 9-year-old girl and a federal judge, were killed, and 13 more, include Giffords, were wounded.

City Councilman Bill Gates is on board with the new security, saying those who attend City Council meetings need to feel safe.

Some, however, believe metal detectors are overkill.

While other cities have considered using metal detectors, most have been deterred by the cost of purchasing and staffing them, as well as the possibility that residents attending meetings might be intimidated. Those cities depend on police officers for security.

After the shooting of Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox in 1997, Mesa and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors became the first government offices in the Metro area to install metal detectors.

Phoenix, which began using metal detectors Tuesday, is looking into actually purchasing its own machines. Right now it is borrowing units from the U.S. Marshals Service. Officers on duty will be staffing the detectors until the city decides if it wants to hire a security firm.

At this point, the metal detectors will only been using during regular meetings and policy sessions.

Phoenix City Hall, which is right across the street from the City Council Chambers, does not have metal detectors.