Wilton Manors to Install Metal Detectors in Commission Chambers

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In a move called “a sign of the times” by both city officials and residents, a metal detector will be installed at the entrance of the city commission chambers.

The decision was announced by Mayor Gary Resnick during the city’s Veterans Day ceremonies at Hagen Park on Saturday, Nov. 11. Resnick made the announcement as he talked about the need for more gun control and listed some of the recent mass shootings that have taken place in the United States, including Las Vegas, the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport, Pulse Nightclub, and the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

In an interview with The Gazette, Chief Paul O’Connell echoed Resnick on gun control. “Our Second Amendment has been kidnapped by the NRA.” O’Connell said the metal detector would be installed in January. Asked which mass shooting prompted the city to decide to install the metal detector, O’Connell said it was Pulse in Orlando. “Pulse was the key.”

The police chief said the decision to install the metal detector was made during a special closed-door commission meeting on Oct. 2. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the city’s security master plan and its implementation. The metal detector, he said, was one of the suggestions of the security consultant hired by the city. O’Connell said other safety strategies would be implemented but, citing security concerns, declined to say what they were at this time.

Recently, the city also began posting an additional police officer in the commission chambers during commission meetings. Previously, only one officer would be officially posted in the back of the room. Now, there is also one assigned to the front of the room.

Commissioner Julie Carson said she doesn’t think that a metal detector would make an effective deterrent in a room as small as the commission chambers, but said she would defer to O’Connell. “I’m going to look to the chief.” She said she’d like to see bullet proof glass installed on the outside of the commission chambers and some kind of protective metal or glass placed over the wood paneling of the commission dais. “If someone comes in [and starts shooting], we have nowhere to go,” she said.

“I’m very sorry that we have to even talk about it,” said Commissioner Scott Newton. But, better safe than sorry, he added. “It’s a necessary evil.”

Resident Mary Ulm said she already feels safe at commission meetings but said she’s fine with the metal detector if it will make city officials and other residents feel safer.

But not every resident is fine with the new security feature.

“Short of our police department having received or is knowledgeable of credible threats, I find the installation of metal detectors at our city’s commission chambers to be a knee jerk reaction by local officials in response to our nation’s disgraceful failure to take any substantive action on addressing gun control and gun violence,” said Sal Torre, president of the Westside Association of Wilton Manors. “The presence of armed Wilton Manors police officers at all city meetings should be more than enough security and offer a high degree of safety for our residents.”


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