In the St. Louis suburb of Florissant, Robert Lowery had metal detectors installed in city hall when he became mayor eight years ago, to ward off any vengeful felons from his previous tenure as the city’s police chief, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He is not sure if extra security has stopped any muggers or murderers looking for him, but he rests a bit easier whenever City Council meetings get disrupted by someone angry about a neighbor’s dog, a ticket from a red-light camera, trash that didn’t get picked up on time or any of the other issues, great and small, that rouse residents. “Every city has people who are really on the edge,” said Lowery, 69.
In Kirkwood, another St. Louis suburb, on on Thursday night, Charles Lee “Cookie” Thornton shot five people to death before he himself was killed. The rampage prompted security reviews at government buildings across the region. At least three cities are considering adding police officers at public meetings. Two may upgrade airport-level security. City halls of St. Louis and St. Peters have had metal detectors for years.The devices were removed from the state Capitol in Jefferson City in 2003. But Gov. Matt Blunt is calling for reinstating them. Leaders of smaller cities say budget constraints and the isolated nature of such shootings do not justify the expense of metal detectors and overtime pay for police to supervise them. Besides, said Brentwood Mayor Pat Kelly, metal detectors don’t guarantee safety. “If someone is really intent on doing harm, and if they know there’s a metal detector, my feeling is that they’ll just do it in the parking lot,” said Kelly, 49.