The attempted assassination of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has prompted Tempe to bolster security by installing a metal detector and X-ray machine at the entrance to the City Council chambers.
Tempe has used the same equipment at the entrance to City Hall since last year, one of many security upgrades made in recent years following shootings on campuses and in government buildings. This response was much faster than what followed other shootings, however.
"The reason that we're doing it now is clearly a result of the events of Tucson," City Manager Charlie Meyer said. "It's a grim reminder of the need for security in public meetings like that."
The city will use the security devices for the first time at today's council meeting.
Tempe got the equipment last year but didn't initially decide where to use it, Meyer said, adding the machines are portable enough to be used at special events. The city didn't want to use the equipment for council meetings yet because the chamber doors go directly outside instead of through a lobby, so there's no separate area for security screening.
Officials feared the screening would disrupt meetings and thought about adding the equipment only after the city had money to build a vestibule, Meyer said. That thinking changed after the Jan. 8 shootings.
"We're trying to minimize the impact on the meeting and to the public, but we think we have an obligation to do what we can to make it safe for the public," Meyer said.
The X-ray machine resembles devices at airports, with rollers feeding items into an enclosure as a security guard views the contents on a monitor. The metal detector, a walk-through magnetometer and a hand wand, cost $47,740, funded with a federal security grant.