Year Since Illinois Statehouse Shooting Sees Security Stepped Up

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Barbara and Paul Cook make a hobby of visiting state capitols, so they didn't think twice about going through metal detectors to enter the Illinois Statehouse Monday.

"They have them all over," said Barbara Cook of South Holland as she rested on a bench near the Capitol rotunda. "We've been to 37 capitols, and I can't think of any that didn't have them."

But Illinois didn't adopt such precautions until the fatal shooting of an unarmed security guard a year ago Tuesday, following years of debate over whether metal detectors and X-ray machines would limit access to public government buildings.

Since the weeks after the shooting, those devices have greeted visitors at three entrances to the Capitol and at other public buildings near the Statehouse.

"It's a balancing act to make sure that the general public does get in here and be able to tour their building or do the work that needs to be done," said Brad Demuzio, director of the secretary of state police.

Employees can avoid the metal detector if they have an identification badge issued by the secretary of state.

There have been other security changes since the Sept. 20, 2004 shooting of 51-year-old security guard William Wozniak. The Illinois State Police took over security from a private firm at the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago and Secretary of State Jesse White hired a private security force to supplement the guards at the Capitol who weren't armed. The private firm will be replaced in January, when a new secretary of state police unit of 60 officers begins work beside the unarmed guards.

Paul Cook had no problem with the extra security measures on his visit. He glanced toward the north door where Wozniak was shot, now occupied by two metal detectors, an X-ray machine and several guards.

"It's not an obvious barricade," Cook said. "It took me a few seconds to realize what it was."

Derek W. Potts, a 25-year-old man with a history of mental illness, is accused of Wozniak's murder but has been found unfit to stand trial.

The cost to add the security equipment, the private guards and the 60 new police officers was $4.9 million - an appropriation legislators approved in January. The ongoing annual cost is expected to be $3.8 million or more.

The state police did not immediately respond to requests for information on security changes.

Besides being armed, the new Capitol police force will have bulletproof vests, if the officer chooses, Demuzio said. Six new police vehicles also were purchased for "roving patrols."

"Any type of visibility is important," Demuzio said. "If we can deter somebody from coming up a driveway or walking up to an entrance and keep them off the street if they're driving around the block, that helps."

(c) 2005 Associated Press

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