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Letter to the Editor: 'Remove Metal Detectors at Roswell City Hall'

Roswell resident Jake Lilley gives his take on why the city should remove the metal detectors recently placed at the entrance to city hall.

"On Thursday, April 26, the city of Roswell installed metal detectors at the southern entrance of Roswell City Hall. All visitors must pass through these metal detectors and submit to police inspection before gaining access to the building. The 600 or so city employees and elected officials who enter the building each day are not required to be screened.

On Tuesday, May 15, city council will [discuss] whether or not to make the new security measures permanent [at a committee meeting].

I was out of town when the new security measures were implemented. I wanted to get a first hand look at the new procedures, so I visited Roswell City Hall on the afternoon of Monday, April 30. What I saw was quite a spectacle - orange barricades, roped-off entrances and dozens of signs directing the public toward a screening area before entering the building.

Surprised and disappointed by the once beautiful, now barricaded grounds of city hall, I decided to attend the city council open forum meeting, scheduled for that same evening, and confront Mayor Wood and City Council with my concerns. 

I arrived at the city council open forum meeting just before 7 p.m. The crowd was much larger than previous council meetings that I had attended. I listened patiently as members of the community presented issues ranging from road construction to zoning ordinances and budget matters. 

About an hour into the meeting, I raised my hand and Mayor [Jere] Wood called me forward to approach the podium and present my issue. 

“I have a few questions about the new security measures that have been implemented through the use of metal detectors at Roswell City Hall. I have requested a written copy of these new guidelines, but received a response from City Administrator Kay Love that no such policy exists,” I said. 

“Can you please explain the policy for the implementation and use of the metal detectors at Roswell City Hall?” I asked. 

“How did the policy come into existence?

Who administers the policy?

And what is the selection criteria for those people who must be screened and those who should not?”

I wish I could say that the mayor’s response to these questions surprised me, but it didn’t. At least I should thank him for his candor.

“City Administrator Kay Love and I made the decision to implement the new security measures in consultation with the Department of Public Safety,” stated Mayor Wood.

“While there are no written guidelines for the implementation of metal detectors at Roswell City Hall, the Department of Public safety has established procedures for the use of metal detectors, which they follow,” said City Administrator Kay Love.

“Under the current policy, all visitors must pass through the screening area.  Elected officials and city employees are not required to be screened,” stated Mayor Woods.

Now, one could argue and reasonably so, that these times are filled with tension surrounding the death of Andrew Wordes. Indeed, . When challenged on the issue, Ms. Brechbill went on to say that:

“We have an obligation to protect and keep safe the hundreds of people who visit City Hall each day and those who work in the building.”

On the surface, these seem like reasonable measures implemented by reasonable people in an effort to maintain the safety of the public and their elected representatives.

But look more closely and you will discover that these new measures are directed not at the uniform and general safety of the community, but are instead applied selectively and categorically.

You see, there are two doors through which people are permitted to enter the building. One door is for the government through which those in power are permitted to pass freely and unmolested. The other door is for you, the citizens of Roswell.

So it is clear to me that the people in this town have been organized into two categories:

  1. Those who are in power and should be trusted without question.
  2. Those who are not in power and therefore must submit to inspection at the hands of police before gaining access to their elected representatives.

The implementation of this policy sends a message to the community of Roswell. It says a different level of trust should be afforded to the government than to the community whom they are here to serve.

If there is one lesson that a free people have learned throughout the course of human history, it is to never trust a government that doesn’t trust you.

It is true that the citizens of Roswell have made assertions, accusations and inquiries . Some of these are fair, some are not. However, the city of Roswell has responded with silence, the rejection of media inquiries and the use of police powers to erect physical barricades between the citizens of Roswell and their government. These actions have only served to raise the level of suspicion and distrust within the community regarding this issue. 

At a minimum, the clumsiness of this response demonstrates a lack of judgment and will result in embarrassment for the city of Roswell. Of greater consequence, the response to this issue and the liberal use of police powers represent a fundamental change in the relationship between the citizens of Roswell and their government.

Ladies and gentleman, truth is not fragile, but trust is. 

It is not your intention, but the course of travel that determines the destination. Even well intentioned people moving in an unintended direction will arrive at the wrong destination. And I submit to you that if you continue on this course, the destination is division and distrust.

So as a citizen of Roswell, I call for the removal of the metal detectors from the entrance of Roswell city hall. I call for open and equal access to our elected representatives. And I call for Roswell City Council and the city administrators to discontinue the use of police powers to create barriers between the citizens of Roswell and their government."

Jake Lilley

Roswell

janet h russell May 03, 2012 at 07:47 PM
I attended the City council meeting that Mr. Lilley gave these remarks. His was a calm and thoughtful speech. And while, I , too, understand the need for metal detectors, I do think that everyone entering the building should be checked. I do think it is ironic that we need to be checked for security reasons to enter City Hall but City council approved guns in our beautiful city parks a few years ago. Just something to think about.
Thomas Wayne Shelton May 03, 2012 at 09:21 PM
My sentiments exactly. It didn't really occur to me how bad it was until I tried to leave the building and the police tape across the front doors was just shocking. We build a beautiful entrance to our grand hall and now have the enter and exit through a tiny side entrance. Our leaders should address the issues head on with respect to Andrew Wordes. I don't recall seeing anything from the Mayor or Council on the matter in the local media. Perhaps open discussions would make the community feel more at ease and offer those that would turn to petty threats an alternative method to voice their concerns. I'm hoping the next election will connect us with solid leadership prepared to guide us into the future.
Mim Eisenberg May 04, 2012 at 12:22 PM
I agree with Ms. Russell that if any are checked, all should be checked. But I too consider this new policy a huge overreaction to a few threats. Let not Mr. Wordes' legacy be a chasm between Roswell government and its citizens. Remember, too, that with current gun-carry laws, people who would do harm can do it anywhere.
lee Turner May 06, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Right on, Mr. Lilley! These weasels on the council and certain city employees CREATED the problem when they harassed Mr. Wordes and then denied him his civil rights, yet We The People now suffer the consequences.The remedy of course is to VOTE out - better yet, RECALL - the council people and fire any employees who took part in Mr Wordes' persecution - - that would be Kay Love (first and foremost), city attorney David Davidson, assistant city attorney Bob Hulsey, code enforcement supervisor Vicky Barclay and probably other employees whose names are yet unknown. Aside from the Wordes matter, Love should be fired for the budget violations of state law. Let the housecleaning begin!

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