North Miami Beach Council screening for weapons

Feb. 20--Anyone who enters North Miami Beach City Hall for a City Council meeting must now agree to be searched.

In response to a recent deadly shooting rampage during a Kirkwood, Mo., city council meeting, the North Miami Beach Police Department, council members and staff decided to step up security and check every person who enters the building.

On Tuesday, meeting attendees emptied their pockets, watched as their briefcases and purses were searched and waited as a police officer moved a hand-held metal detector up and down their bodies in search of weapons.

"We are not taking any chances," North Miami Beach Police Chief Rafael P. Hernandez, Jr. told the council during the meeting.

Hernandez said police will be present at every meeting to search attendees, escort them in the elevator and stand watch over the council chambers.

Bright yellow fliers were handed out to explain the new procedures to all attendees. Before Tuesday, people were able to go to a meeting without being checked at all.

Some residents, including Angel Morales, said they were surprised with the thorough checkpoint, but felt safer knowing everyone inside had been checked.

"If we need it, we need it," Morales said. "It doesn't hurt to be extra careful."

Anyone who brings a weapon to city hall is now subject to arrest. If a person does not want to be searched, they will be asked to leave, Hernandez said.

Mayor Raymond Marin said he suggested the new searching procedures in response to the Feb. 7 Missouri incident in which Charles Lee "Cookie" Thornton shot and killed two police officers and three city officials and critically wounded the city's mayor before police shot and killed Thornton.

"If you have a weapon, I have the right to stop you," Marin said. "The Missouri incident brought that home."

Copyright (c) 2008, The Miami Herald Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.


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