A little more than three years after the shooting rampage which left six people dead at a Kirkwood City Council meeting, the issue of security at public meetings has resurfaced in Creve Coeur. Monday night city council members discussed concerns over what one council member called "a credible threat", and if that threat should merit the use of metal detectors for city council meetings.
As a result of the Kirkwood shootings, a Creve Coeur police officer now attends council meetings. Municipal Court participants are required to pass through a metal detector for the proceedings, also held in council chambers, on Wednesday nights.
Monday, council members discussed in public concerns about an unidentified city resident who has what Ward Two Councilwoman Tara Nealey described as having "a relatively long history of issues with the city." Police Chief Glenn Eidman said the individual, who officials believe legally owns a weapon, has made veiled threats against a police officer and city council members.
Members of the public voiced concern about how the use of the detectors could deter or intimidate citizens from attending council sessions. One woman wondered if the detectors would be so sensitive as to go off when someone with a knee or hip replacement passed through. Chief Eidman said the city can calibrate its equipment in a way that would mitigate those concerns and at least give counci meetings another line of defense. "This is a great country, you can come and go as you please. If he came in here and sat down and I know he or she had a permit to own a gun, there's nothing I can do with that," he said.
The issue struck close to City Attorney Carl Lumley. While not advocating one way or another on the topic, his emotions showed as he told the meeting that those killed in the Kirkwood shootings were his friends, and that at one time he had campaigned for Kirkwood City Council alongside the shooter, Cookie Thornton. "I still can't believe he did it," Lumley said of Thornton.
No official decision was made on the issue. City officials will review how other cities in the area handle city council security and likely provide some update at the next council meeting. Councilwoman Nealey, who requested the discussion, said afterward that using the metal detectors would be a low-cost, low impact measure. "How would I feel if something terrible happpened and I had not made an effort to do something about it--knowing what I know now, I think I would feel badly about that," Nealey said.
The Charter Didn't Plan For This
Under city charter rules, Council President A.J. Wang is serving as Acting Mayor while Mayor Harold Dielmann recovers from open heart surgery performed last Thursday. Wang shared a cell phone picture he took during a visit to St. John's Mercy Medical Center, showing Dielmann in good spirits. Dielmann said in a memo to council members that he hopes to return to his council duties no later than the body's first meeting in April.
Council members had to address an unforeseen wrinkle in the city's charter as a result of the mayor's surgery. Councilman Wang will be out of the country for the next meeting Feb. 28, and there is no one designated at Council Vice President under the city charter. Members elected Ward Four Councilwoman Laura Bryant to serve as Acting Council President for that meeting.