By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – State troopers from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency will be the main security force at the Alabama State House during the upcoming legislative session.
Senate Secretary Pat Harris told Alabama Daily News on Monday an agreement with ALEA is in the works to replace the private security company that has been used at the State House for the last several years. A meeting on the subject was scheduled for Monday afternoon.
“We’re working with ALEA to replace the private contract with an agreement with ALEA, who will still be responsible to the House and Senate, but we will have uniformed troopers at the doors,” Harris said.
The troopers will likely be in place near the beginning of the session which starts Feb. 2, Harris said.
The entrances to the State House on the 1st and 2nd floors are typically guarded by private security officers and visitors who enter must pass through a metal detector and sign a ledger. The troopers will be able to make arrests, whereas the private contractors could not, providing a better overall sense of safety and security at the State House, Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, told ADN on Monday.
“The perception is that you’ve got a professional with a Smokey the Bear hat and then you’ve got, and I don’t mean this in a derogatory way, the appearance of a rent-a-cop,” Albritton said.
The change has been in development since the fall and is not a result of the violent mob seen at the U.S. Capitol last week, Albritton said.
In November, Alabama Daily News reported that efforts to change the security forces at the State House were in progress and that some House members were in favor of troopers as security officers. Troopers already provide security at the Capitol across the street from the State House.
The House and Senate each have their own security guards that regulate access to the floors, chambers and committee meetings within the State House, but do not control access to the building. They will remain in place.
Albritton doesn’t know the exact cost of adding state troopers but estimated that it will be a several hundred thousand dollar increase to what the State House already pays for its security.
In fiscal year 2020, the Legislature paid DSI Security almost $202,700, according to state spending records. The company was paid nearly $221,000 in fiscal year 2019.
Various state capitals across the nation are stepping up their security measures and even deploying National Guard units amid safety concern following last week’s violent attacks at the U.S. Capitol, the Associated Press reported.
“ALEA in conjunction with local law enforcement continue to work together to provide overall safety and security to all state buildings within the Capitol complex,” Robyn Bryan, ALEA media relations manager, told Alabama Daily News when asked about the possible need for more security.
Harris said he is not currently concerned about violent protestors marching on the State House, but said if extra security was needed, they would be able to get help from ALEA easily.
“If we have to either beef up security or add more people, we’ll go straight to ALEA and ask for their help and they’ve always been great in assisting us in any manner that we need,” Harris said.