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Reality Check: How Does Capitol Security Compare To Other States?

Published On: May 19 2011 07:18:07 AM CDT
Updated On: May 19 2011 08:56:30 AM CDT

Security has been high at the Wisconsin state Capitol since protests in February over Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill.

WISC-TV looked into how security at the Capitol compares to other states.

The new security measures at the Capitol are the subject of a lawsuit.

Those entering the Wisconsin state Capitol must now step through a metal detector, which is a big change from the past.

Before the protests, all ground floor doors to the Capitol at eight entrances were open to the public with no metal detectors.

Now, only two doors are open, even for school tour groups: at Martin Luther King Boulevard and North Hamilton Streets.

Visitors are sent through the metal detectors or wanded by Capitol police or state troopers.

"Work needs to occur. People need to have their First Amendment rights. We need to make sure that access is available, and it certainly has been, but we need to balance all of those things," said Mike Huebsch, the Department of Administration secretary.

How does Wisconsin's new security measure up to other states?

According to the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures, exactly half of state Capitols across the country use metal detectors -- 26 if Wisconsin is included.

Illinois installed metal detectors in 2004 after an unarmed security guard was shot in the Capitol. Minnesota has no metal detectors.

Twenty-five states also have security guards present in the Capitol building. Only eight other states have more than six entrances open, and 16 states have three to five entrances open.

The DOA said it is looking at these statistics before it makes a decision on security in the future.

"Is there a date certain I can give you now? No, but I can tell you we are diligently working toward that to determine what should be the future security policies and practices of the state Capitol," Huebsch said.

On March 3, a judge ordered the Wisconsin Capitol building open "as it was on January 28."

Lawyers have said they believe the DOA is in contempt of that order, and an injunction hearing will be held on the matter next week.

The doors on the first floor of the Capitol used to be open to the public as well, but they were closed permanently after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

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