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Schenectady councilman wants security policy review at City Hall

Schenectady councilman wants security policy review at City Hall

Polimeni calls for discussion in light of shooting at Virginia Beach Municipal Center
Schenectady councilman wants security policy review at City Hall
The exterior of Schenectady City Hall on Jay Street in Schenectady is shown in this photo from April.
Photographer: Marc Schultz / Gazette Photographer

SCHENECTADY — As mass shootings increasingly become a part of the national landscape, a city lawmaker wants City Hall to review security protocol. 

“City Hall is an open place,” said Councilman John Polimeni. “A lot of people are going in and out. I think it’s worth discussing protecting city workers, city staff and the public in the building.”

Polimeni initially wanted the City Council’s Public Safety Committee to discuss safety features and security measures last Monday. But discussion was tabled for two weeks so that Mayor Gary McCarthy, who did not attend the meeting, could be included in the conversation.

The discussion comes weeks after a disgruntled city of Virginia Beach employee gunned down 12 people, all but one of them city employees, and injured four at the city’s municipal complex on May 31.

The perpetrator was ultimately subdued by city police, whose offices were located nearby. 

Schenectady City Hall has four ground-level entrances, none of which are manned by guards or checkpoints.

Polimeni suggested winnowing down the number of entrances down to two and installing cameras and security glass. 

The downtown building isn’t entirely without security. The state Office of Court Administration (OCA) employs court officers during court hours, and visitors to the second-floor courtrooms and offices must pass through a metal detector. 

OCA said active shooter training is ongoing.

“We have been and continue to provide active shooter training for all our 4,000 uniformed court officers statewide and are in the process of working on a training program for non-uniformed personnel,” said Lucian Chalfen, spokesman for OCA. 

In a shared facility like City Hall, the city or county would be responsible for providing additional security in the remainder of the building, Chalfen said. 

Joe McQueen, a spokesman for Schenectady County Legislature, questioned the county’s role in boosting security at City Hall. 

“The county has nothing to do with it,”  McQueen said. “It’s not our responsibility.”

Public Safety Commissioner Michael Eidens said the city has worked with the police and fire departments to craft an evacuation plan and holds regular drills.

“State building code requires us to do four per year and that will be what we will comply with,” Eidens said.

A bomb threat to city and county buildings last summer recalled in protocol being reviewed and modified, he said. 

Working with OCA is important, he said, because the majority of people in City Hall at any given time are there for court-related business. 

OCA doesn’t disclose the specifics of their evacuation plan, Eidens said. But the agencies have worked to ensure their plans are generally harmonious and not in conflict with one another.

Eidens has also crafted protocols for active shooter training.

“It’s a legitimate concern we all have,” Eidens said. “We need to make sure we’re all on the same page and pulling in the same direction.”

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