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Beefed Up Security Leads to Arrests

March 11, 2002
By: Brian Connolly
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Security checkpoints intended to deter and prevent terrorism at one state office building have uncovered criminal activity of a different kind.

Eighteen visitors have been arrested at the Truman State Office Building since screening was put in place Oct. 9th, said Lou Tedeschi, chief of Missouri Capitol Police.

The arrests on weapon and drug possession were made by Missouri State Water Patrol officers staffing checkpoints at the building, located across the street from the state Capitol, Tedeschi said.

Misdemeanor drug possession accounted for fourteen of the arrests, with an additional arrest for felony cocaine possession. Three weapons related arrests were also made: two for possession of a switchblade and one for possession of two sets of brass knuckles, said Jim Glover, major in charge of field operations for the Water Patrol.

The mission of the security screening, put in place following the Sept. 11 attacks, is not to be a drug checkpoint, Tedeschi said.

"The discovery of contraband is a collateral issue," he said.

Those discoveries came through a variety of circumstances. For instance, when one visitor took a pack of cigarettes out of their pocket before passing through a metal detector, an officer noticed drugs kept inside, Glover said. In another case, after repeatedly setting off the walk-through metal detector officers used a hand held "wand" detector to locate a knife located in a man's boot holster, Glover said.

Keeping state buildings secure while insuring public access is "a hard balance," said Speaker of the House Jim Kreider, D-Nixa. He said he doesn't want state buildings fortified and encourages the discussion of how civil liberties.

"We've got to be very careful to not tread on them," Kreider said.

Sen. Dave Klarich, R-St. Louis County and chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the searches are like those conducted at airports and he has no objections. He said whether fleeing the screening process was probable cause would have to be decided on a case by case basis.

Two of the drug arrests were made after visitors undergoing the screening process fled before the contraband was discovered, Glover said.

"A person who is going through a process like this and has nothing to hide won't run," Glover said. "It's incumbent upon the officers, for everyone's safety and concern, to pursue these individuals and find out why they ran."

Rep. Ralph Monaco, D-Raytown and chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said it would be up to a court to decide if those arrests were the result of a reasonable search, but he believes individuals have the right to change their mind during the screening process.

"I'm not so sure that turning around at a metal detector gives rise to probable cause that a crime has been committed," Monaco said.

Part of the checkpoints' purpose is preventative, Tedeschi said, so the impending screening is visible as people approach.

"It's fairly obvious what we're doing," Tedeschi said. "It's not like we're hiding behind a bush."

Security checkpoints are still in place at the Truman building, State Capitol and state public health lab, Tedeschi said, though all the arrests have taken place at the Truman building.