Securing City Hall in Buffalo, N.Y.

Security system necessary but will be unobtrusive, writes captain of B.P.D.


The recent installation of security cameras in City Hall has raised questions among some observers about the value and benefit of such measures, including comments that such a system raises the specter of an Orwellian "Big Brother" approach to monitoring activities in the building.

As someone who has participated over the past two years with other experts in the analysis and subsequent planning and implementation of City Hall's upgraded and modernized security system, I can assure everyone that fears that a new security system is being installed to "watch over" certain people are completely unfounded.

Regrettably, we live in an era where security systems are a way of life. We see them at airports, sporting events and other large-scale special events. Interestingly, however, most citizens do not notice these security systems, which, of course, is the point.

At City Hall, citizens, employees and tourists pass freely through the halls and floors of our central system of government. In our democracy, we expect to be able to move freely through various public buildings; that has always been a source of pride and distinction for us versus other forms of government around the world.

But five years ago, our nation changed dramatically. The aftermath of 9/11 has witnessed a different approach to securing our many public and private buildings.

Using federal Homeland Security funds, we did what our counterparts have done elsewhere in the United States -- we examined the security liabilities of City Hall and developed recommendations for implementing a new, upgraded security system that would be sound, reliable and state-of-the-art, but would also be as unobtrusive as possible.

We recognized, as does the Brown administration, that City Hall represents the openness and accessibility of our municipal government. We also acknowledged the ability of our citizens to move as freely as possible through the building they regard as the symbol of such openness and accessibility. So we worked hard to develop a security system that would address potential weaknesses but minimize impact on citizens seeking access to their government.

I believe we have developed a system that safeguards City Hall without compromising access to the building. There is no doubt that City Hall's overall security will be better and completely up-to-date. We will not, however, discuss publicly the details of the new system; it is critical to the system's success and reliability that we protect its integrity.

Any uninformed assumptions about what the system is designed to do are just that -- uninformed. We will meet with all appropriate government and law enforcement representatives to update them on the scope and nature of the new system. And we will reinforce the value and benefit of such a system to all citizens who come into City Hall.

About the author: Mark Makowski is a captain in the Buffalo Police Department.