JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The FBI is warning states of possible armed protests at state Capitols leading up to President-Elect Joe Biden’s inauguration and Missouri is upping security as concerns for chaos increases.
For anyone inside the Missouri State Capitol Tuesday, it wasn’t hard to notice the increase presence of law enforcement officers from the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Department of Natural Resources. Senators received a memo saying those additional officers will be in Jefferson City throughout the coming weeks.
“This is the one thing we are all on the same team on,” Rep. Ron Hicks, R-Defiance, said on the House floor during debate Tuesday. “This is not a Republican or Democrat issue. I don’t know what, if this is the only thing we might work together on all year, but I can tell you if it is, it’s the one thing that will save lives.”
The topic of safety came up among House members during debate over a House resolution for the 101st General Assembly rules. It didn’t seem to matter the side of the aisle. Lawmakers agreed, safety is the number one priority.
“Emergency preparation is what saves lives, and we are finding that we are not prepared, and that is terrifying,” Rep. Keri Ingle, D-Lee’s Summit, said. “We may never know when an event happens. Right now, we are getting tips, and we’re being topped off to holes within our system.”
After last week’s violent protests in the nation’s capital, Missouri legislators are wondering if their safe inside the statehouse.
“What happened last Wednesday highlighted it,” Hicks said. “We don’t need that to happen in our building, and if it does, we just need to have a plan to keep everybody safe. My wife wants me to come home.”
Additional law enforcement officers were seen walking across the Capitol Wednesday. In an email sent to Senators Tuesday from Senate Administrator Patrick Baker, he told members:
“Capitol Police have requested assistance from several agencies due to recent events occurring at various capitols throughout the country. You will see additional officers in the capitol building from the Highway Patrol, Department of Natural Resources and other agencies throughout the coming weeks.”Senate Administrator Patrick Baker
“How we would be made aware if there were protests outside, protests for anything, we’ve had a slew of protests over the last year, and where in which the police lines were breached,” Ingle asked Hicks. “How would we be made aware within this chamber that there was coming danger to us?”
The Department of Public Safety would not comment on the additional officers, but sent a statement saying:
“While our policy is not to discuss specific details of security plans or operations, they include long-term advance planning, training, exercises and close coordination between state government and our local and federal partners. Also key is sharing regional and national homeland security and intelligence information in real time. Security operations and staffing are adapted based on this information and other sources. Our public safety agencies have considerable experience because the State Capitol and Jefferson City routinely attract a wide variety of large-scale public events and demonstrations.”Department of Public Safety
Later Tuesday afternoon, Capitol Police tweeted saying:
“Security measures/staffing at MO Capitol are regularly adjusted based on pending events (e.g. Monday’s inauguration) & information received from public & other sources. Barries for the inauguration were removed but at times visitors may still notice add’l security measures/staff.”Missouri Capitol Police
“We have a responsibly to each other, to our staff, to our constituencies and to any visitors in this building to keep them safe when they are here in the people’s house,” Ingle said.
Gov. Mike Parson said after his inauguration Monday that the state is taking precautions.
“Of course, we are quite aware of what’s going on here,” Parson said. “I think our state is a little different compared to a lot of other states where you’re seeing some of these issues coming.”
During session Tuesday, House member changed the rules allowing the sergeant-of-arms and deputies to carry a firearm and to arrest and apprehend people who violate chamber rules.