RICHMOND, Va. — Following the mass shooting at a Virginia Beach municipal building, more steps are being taken to heighten security around Virginia’s Capitol complex.
At an active shooter training session organized by the Virginia Division of Capitol Police for state employees in June, many workers brought up concerns about limited security in their offices.
There are more than a dozen state office buildings in the Capitol complex. Some of them have security guards, contracted by the Dept. of General Services, while others have Capitol Police officers.
Since Aug. 1, officers have been signing up for overtime shifts to do extra patrols around state office buildings. These shifts are voluntary, officials say. Two to four officers will sign up and go in pairs on walkthroughs of different buildings each day.
“They’re engaging state employees in conversation as part of our crime prevention that we see something, say something,” Col. Anthony S. Pike, the chief of the Virginia Division of Capitol Police, said. “If there’s a building evacuation, it could be a medical call, could be an active shooter scenario, it could be anything, so just having those extra officers available to be in those facilities increases our response time.”
Not all of the state buildings have metal detectors, which is something some employees were concerned about during the training a few months ago.
Often times, if there’s a security personnel standing guard near an entrance, people with state issued identification badges can walk through without being checked. All state employees are required to have one. The badges allow access to different floors and entrances to buildings, depending on the worker’s level of clearance from supervisors.
Capitol Police and contracted security guards are being stricter if people forget to bring their badges to work.
When it comes to security outside, visitors will notice more cruisers and barricades near entrances around the Capitol. More changes could happen in the future, officials say.
“We are in the process of working with the Department of General Services in analyzing the individual state facilities to determine what are the appropriate access points,” Col. Pike said. “Can we reduce those down to one or two access points? It all depends on the size of the building and the population that’s there.”
Hardening security in state office buildings is a balancing act.
”These are Virginia buildings, you know it’s taxpayer dollars. We want to provide the public access to their state employees,” Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran said.
Additional active shooter training sessions are being offered for employees, Secretary Moran says, to empower them in an emergency. Considerations are being taken about these issues for the upcoming state budget as well.
“We continue to work through those discussions, but ultimately we need to get dangerous people with guns off the streets,” Secretary Moran said.
Gov. Ralph Northam called lawmakers back to Richmond for a special session on gun violence in July. Virginia Republicans called on the State Crime Commission to dive deeper into the legislation proposed. The commission is bipartisan. It’s tackled issues such as human and sex trafficking, which it proposed legislation about last year.
The commission is meeting next Monday and Tuesday to go over presentations, the legislation, and to hear from the public.