Visitors to the Legislative Building in recent days may have noticed something they haven't seen before – a uniformed police officer posted at the rear entrance to the building.
The change is part of an overall security review of the legislative complex, according to police.
Chief Martin Brock of the N.C. General Assembly Police Department said officers are counting the number of people who use each entrance of the building. He described the review as part of an "ongoing conversation" about safety concerns. "We're just looking at possible ways to enhance security in the complex, so we want to get an idea of how many people are coming and going," he said.
Brock, who took over as chief last spring with the retirement of former chief Jeff Weaver, said he expects officers to collect data for about a month. "It's preliminary, a project that I instructed the officers to do so that we could look at ways to help make the place more safe," Brock said. "Right now we're just looking at the lobby entrances on this building. We may look at the other areas -- the (Legislative Office Building), the basement, the parking decks on legislative property – at a later time."
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Building security has been routinely under review since at least the mid-1990s, said one senator who has pressed for greater security measures. Sen. Andrew Brock, a Davie County Republican, worked on the Senate's sergeant-at-arms staff from 1995 to 1996. He said that security reviews of the legislative complex were conducted by federal agencies in the wake of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, an act of domestic terrorism against a federal building that killed 168 people.
"No one ever settles on security," Sen. Brock, no relation to the police chief, said. "It's ever-changing so you're always doing reviews year in and year out to see if best practices are in place and looking at incoming threats."
After Republicans took control of the General Assembly in 2011, Sen. Brock was behind a plan to install metal detectors at the Legislative Building and to require most visitors to enter through the main front entrance. Those plans stalled because they were too expensive, he said.
Sen. Brock said security at public buildings also has a political aspect. "That's part of it, the perception of people coming in," he said. "We like the openness of people being able to come in, but that's also a hindrance. You have liberty versus security as an issue."