New Security Measures Underway

Times Staff Writer

In Arnold Schwarzenegger's pre-inauguration visit to the golden-domed state Capitol last month, government business came to a standstill as the governor-elect made what was characterized as an Oscar-night entry.

Some women felt faint. Men's eyes bulged in awe. Tourists squealed in rapture. Employees jostled each other for a glimpse of the celebrity turned chief executive of the nation's most populous state.

"It was like walking on a red carpet on the way to the Academy Awards," Tony Beard, chief of security for the state Senate, recalled of Schwarzenegger's arrival. "The dynamic was something not seen in this building in my 36 years here."

Even other celebrities, including Clint Eastwood, Frank Sinatra, John Wayne, football great Joe Montana and Queen Elizabeth, never got such a star-struck reception, he said. "The noise was deafening."

But the governor-elect's wild reception offered a sample of what California Highway Patrol chief D.O. "Spike" Helmick and others who protect the governor's safety believe will write a new chapter in the personal protection handbooks.

"Crowds push in and want to get close," Helmick said. "There are going to be large crowds out to see him -- not necessarily to hear the message -- but to see him."

"He's Arnold Schwarzenegger, movie star, 'Terminator,' 'Commando' and 'Kindergarten Cop,' " said Beard, chief sergeant-at-arms of the Senate, whose father and grandfather also were Capitol security officials.

Helmick said he believes the size of the governor's security force, whose numbers are confidential, is adequate and will not require the addition of new officers. But in anticipation of big crowds that Schwarzenegger is expected to attract, CHP motorcycle officers throughout California recently completed a new training course for crowd control and gubernatorial security duties.

As the new governor moves throughout the state for appearances, motorcycle officers in the local areas will be dispatched from their regular duties, as needed, to help control crowds and form a "moving sidewalk" to ensure that he is not impeded by crowds.

"Their job is to get off their motorcycles and politely keep the crowds back a ways," Helmick said. "This is something we've never done before."

Although Schwarzenegger's get-acquainted meeting with legislators and Gov. Gray Davis last month provided a live test for crowd control at the Capitol, it also touched off complaints from some legislators and employees.

In their zeal to assure his safety, squads of CHP officers, borrowed from the CHP headquarters and the patrol's training academy, sealed Capitol corridors, turned off elevators and abruptly blocked employees and legislative members from entering or leaving their offices, including those in faraway corners of the building. At the same time, legislative security people conceded that they could have performed better. "The patrol made mistakes and I made mistakes," Beard said.

Helmick agreed that the two sides must work more closely with each other. "This was a learning experience for us," he said.

During the election campaign, Schwarzenegger was accompanied by at least one private security agent, an employee of a firm that provides bodyguards to celebrities and business executives. After the election, the CHP took over the task.

As a matter of policy, state officials refuse to discuss security arrangements for governors. Even the amount spent on the governor's security detail is not disclosed in the state budget.

However, it is known that governors are guarded around the clock, regardless of whether they are in California or traveling elsewhere, including to foreign countries. The security agents include paramedics and heavy-weapons specialists.

Some governors have adjusted easily to the round-the-clock presence of bodyguards. Others, such as former Gov. Jerry Brown, a bachelor, regularly gave them the slip, hopped into his trademark Plymouth and visited Sacramento nightspots unescorted. Sometimes, his chief of staff, Gray Davis, did the driving.

Brown's successor, Republican Gov. George Deukmejian, had a well-known penchant for ice cream. Helmick recalled that to the distress of his bodyguards, Deukmejian would "sneak out" and walk to a nearby confectionary for an ice cream cone.

"I don't think [Schwarzenegger] would ever do anything like that," Helmick said.

He noted that as an internationally known celebrity who is married to television reporter Maria Shriver, a member of the Kennedy family, Schwarzenegger is accustomed to crowds and security. "He's very cooperative," Helmick said.

Even before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, multimillions of dollars had been spent to make the 129-year-old state Capitol more secure, including installation of state-of-the-art electronic systems and the addition of extra security personnel.

These steps, however, did not stop the driver of an 18-wheeler from ramming into the building at about 45 mph on Jan. 16, 2001, causing a spectacular fire that incinerated him and caused nearly $17 million in damage.

Helmick has recommended for years that stout concrete barriers be erected at the Capitol's vulnerable perimeter, but the Legislature has been reluctant to go that far. Legislative leaders believe that such barricades would destroy the historic concept of open government that the "people's building" has come to symbolize.

But Helmick indicated in an interview last week that in spite of the improvements, he is not satisfied with its safety. "I think I'd be remiss in not saying that [security] continues to need to be looked at and discussed by the policymakers," he said.

The omnipresent use of bodyguards by California chief executives was virtually unheard of until another actor, Ronald Reagan, became governor in 1967. His predecessor, Gov. Pat Brown, was accompanied by his driver, an armed Highway Patrol officer.

When Reagan arrived, he brought along a private security man, Art Van Court, an imposing figure and former Los Angeles law enforcement officer. Later that same year, the Assembly chamber was invaded by heavily armed members of the radical Black Panther organization.

No violence occurred, but the unprecedented event demonstrated that security at the hub of government in California needed dramatic improvement.

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