Selma City Council considering security changes at city hall

Published 7:48 pm Thursday, January 23, 2014

Selma City Hall visitors could soon be forced to empty their pockets before entering the building.

The city council’s public safety committee considered several measures to improve security in the building after more than a dozen protesters were escorted out of a Jan. 16 meeting.

During the Jan. 16. meeting, local radio personality Sherrette Spicer ran behind the council’s desk bumping into several members as she shouted about the decision to deed land to chapter 53 of the United Daughters of Confederacy.

Among the potential security changes are metal detectors and identification badges for city employees. Council president Corey Bowie initially suggested hand-held metal detectors at the entrance to the council room last week, but recommended metal detectors at the entrance to city hall during the committee meeting.

“It really might not be a bad idea to have a permanent metal detector at the front of city hall for when people enter the building,” Bowie said. “We will have to see what they cost and then make the decision.”

Once a decision is made, those entering city hall would be forced to remove keys and other items from their pockets for safety, according to Bowie. Until then, he said police officers would scan people at the entrance to the council chambers with hand-held metal detectors.

Ward 4 Councilwoman Angela Benjamin also recommended a sign-in sheet for visitors and identification badges for employees.

“I’ve never been into a government building where people didn’t have badges to show that they are city employees,” she said. “Here, random people can walk around, office to office, and nobody knows who they are. If there are IDs and it has to be hanging from me, then you know that’s a city employee.”

The committee also considered establishing additional rules of order as a part of the new security plan, which would force attendees to be removed after being warned about speaking out of turn twice.

The security plan would also prevent citizens from approaching the council’s desk once the meeting had started..

“It has gotten to be a kangaroo court during the council meetings,” Ward 2 councilwoman Susan Keith said.

Before discussing security changes, the public safety committee also reviewed two “brown bag” ordinances that would prevent businesses from allowing alcohol to be brought on the premises and later consumed.

The first would prevent businesses, whether licensed to sell alcohol or not, to allow patrons to drink alcoholic beverages after bringing them onto the business’ property.

The second would prevent someone who owns a business license from leasing a facility where alcohol is being “brown bagged” onto the premises and consumed. The ordinance was amended during Thursday’s meeting to exclude weddings.

Both ordinances will be placed on first read during the council’s Tuesday meeting and could be voted on.