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Capitol beefs up security after DC riots; Highway Patrol, Natural Resources send officers

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — An influx of officers from across state agencies, including the Missouri State Highway Patrol, were present throughout the Missouri Capitol Tuesday. An increase in security was requested in the Capitol following recent events, including the FBI warning of upcoming “armed protests” at statehouses around the country ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. 

Officers from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Missouri State Highway Patrol were present throughout the Capitol as session got underway Tuesday, from the tavern in the basement to the House gallery. 

House members are also expected to meet with Capitol Police later Tuesday to discuss security measures, sources told The Missouri Times. 

The increased security comes after a rally in support of President Donald Trump turned deadly at the U.S. Capitol last week when rioters stormed the building as lawmakers attempted to certify the 2020 presidential election. The FBI has also warned of “armed protests” ahead of the inauguration later this month at every statehouse in the country. 

Capitol Police requested the additional law enforcement in Missouri “due to recent events occurring at various capitals throughout the country,” said an email from Patrick Baker, the Senate administrator, to the upper chamber Tuesday. 

The full Senate does not have plans to meet with law enforcement officials as a caucus, but leadership and administration are “staying up to speed with developments,” Senate Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden said. “It’s all fluid at this point.” 

“While our policy is not to discuss specific details of security plans or operations, they include long-term advance planning, training, exercises, and close coordination between state government and our local and federal partners,” Mike O’Connell, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, said in a statement. “Also key is sharing regional and national homeland security and intelligence information in real time. Security operations and staffing are adapted based on this information and other sources. Our public safety agencies have considerable experience because the state Capitol and Jefferson City routinely attract a wide variety of large-scale public events and demonstrations.” 

Capitol Police, Missouri State Highway Patrol, and DNR officers were on hand for a largely peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Jefferson City outside of the statehouse in June. 

HOUSE DEBATES SECURITY MEASURES

Reps. Keri Ingle and Ron Hicks discussed safety issues on the House floor Tuesday in response to the events on Capitol Hill last week, with Hicks saying the issue of clear security measures in the House was a bipartisan matter.

“It’s not a Republican issue or a Democrat issue,” Hicks said. “This may be the one thing we can agree on this session, and it’s a conversation we’ll definitely be having in the future. We have to think about our most vulnerable constituents as well as ourselves.”

Ingle noted the threat went beyond just riots and COVID-19 — emergencies could come in the form of weather or other medical situations as well, she said. 

“While we’re under an increased threat right now, I don’t see the discussion ceasing in the near future,” Ingle said. “There are holes within our system that need addressing.”

The House approved updated rules Tuesday, including one allowing the sergeant-at-arms to carry a firearm and arrest and apprehend individuals who violate chamber rules. It also mandated he maintain a valid peace officers license while employed.

CAPITOL FIREARM POLICY

In the Missouri Capitol, individuals with a valid conceal and carry firearm permit can check in at a designated entrance and must provide a valid permit and photo identification to be able to bring a firearm into the building. However, those individuals cannot carry firearms onto the chamber floor of either the House or Senate, in either body’s galleries, or in legislative meeting rooms. 

Those who do not meet the criteria will not be allowed entry, per state rules.