By Ella Kovacs
Listen Up Lansing Staff Reporter
Centrally located in downtown Lansing, our state’s Capitol towers over local businesses, commuter traffic, and locals walking around. With its intricate architecture, statues, and overall grandeur, its clear that this is the most important building in the area. Across the street sits Lansing’s City Hall, looming equally as tall, but with a much less conspicuous sign that quietly reads “City Hall.”
While both are obviously important places, the security in each are very different. Walk into the Capitol, home of Michigan’s senate, House of Representatives, historical archives, priceless art and decorations, and not to mention VERY important people, and you are barely even asked what you’re doing there before you’re allowed to roam the building, seemingly unattended.
On the other side, within the first steps of entering City Hall, there is a metal detector and security guard, checking every pocket of every bag brought in, and patting down the owners of those bags. Why such a disparity in security?
“People feel more safe coming here because they’re actually being checked,” said Tasha Shines, Security Supervisor at City Hall. “We do have the district court and the mayor’s office and quite a few other departments, it’s very important here. So, we make sure that everyone is safe, as well as ourselves.”
According to Lt. Brody Boucher, Commander of the Capitol Security Unit, the Capitol has “quite a bit of security, but we’re not very public about that.”
Boucher explained that the Capitol is considered “the people’s house” and that it’s very important for people to feel welcome, comfortable, and safe there.
Part of this safety comes from protecting the people from each other, said Boucher. When people are expressing their free speech, it can sometimes be a very sensitive subject. But no matter how unpopular the opinion, the people need to feel welcome to share their words at the Capitol.
“That’s where people come for free speech. We want to have an environment that welcomes that,” said Boucher. He goes on to explain that even when the Ku Klux Klan visits the Capitol, they need the same protection as everyone else.
So how is this discreet security achieved? Boucher talked about how if there were officers roaming the same patrol areas at predictable intervals, it would be easier to get away with something because one could figure out when they would be unsupervised. That’s why there are many officers, patrolling different areas of the building at different times.
Boucher went on to talk about how there is barely any other building in Lansing with so many officers inside and around it at once. The security may not be evident, but it’s certainly there.
Back at City Hall, Shines said the only recent scare was someone in the courtroom on the sixth floor, running out of it. He did this to get away, without the intent to harm anyone. Nonetheless, she explained, they now have cameras on the fifth and sixth floors.
Another security officer Sarah Hardin talked about getting resistance about the level of security at the building. “Some people think it’s tedious to do all this extra stuff, but I always tell people ‘we don’t check thoroughly and then someone [sees] someone that they don’t like and then we didn’t check them, they can hurt them and then the city is at fault for us not being thorough,’ so its all about trying to protect as much as we can, its not trying to be petty,” said Hardin.
“The departments upstairs rely on us in terms of safety,” added Shines. “And for the most part we always hold up our end.”
The ladies also talked about upcoming security methods in the works, including an x-ray machine.
Bill Grace, a security officer on the sixth floor, expressed his appreciation for the entrance security. The sixth floor houses the courtroom, so it’s extra important that anyone interacting with these people who could be angry or dangerous are kept safe.
“We get some very angry people coming up here, you know. And we don’t want them coming up here with a gun or a knife or you know, anything that’s hazardous,” said Grace.
So in City Hall, it’s the people that need protecting, not so much the actual building or decorations. The people need protecting in the Capitol as well, but in a slightly different way.