EDITORIAL:

It is time to face the harsh realities of life. We don’t live in Mayberry or Pleasantville, or any other perfectly idyllic town. We live in the real world, where they are sometimes bad people who do bad things.

It’s sad, but in a world where violence seems ever present metal detectors, such as the one Burbank has brought into City Hall are sometimes necessary.

That necessity — the one that now has the Burbank City Council paying $600 a council meeting to station a metal detector outside of City Council Chambers — is not far-fetched, as local public officials react to the horror of a fatal shooting in Kirkwood, Mo., during a City Council meeting on Feb. 7, when a gunman killed five city officials, including two city council members.

And certainly Burbank and Glendale leaders have every right to be concerned about angry audience members, whose actions are not only disruptive, but at the very least bordering on violent.

But a metal detector outside one room for a couple hours a week is not security. It is a minor deterrent.

If there is a real security threat — and clearly city officials believe there is — both City Halls should do it right. That means metal detectors at all entrances of the buildings.

It is, sadly, not unrealistic to think that an irate resident, or even just some unstable soul, could walk into a city building and start shooting.

If you think it is then you are sheltered and have not been following the national news for the past decade.

And frankly if city officials are frightened to attend council meetings — as city leaders in Glendale and Burbank have admitted to — then we have a problem.

We can’t fault Burbank officials for taking quick action to station a detector outside Council Chambers in the wake of the Kirkwood shooting — a move that was made all the more immediate after the recent lifting of a restraining order against a resident who had been threatening at a recent Burbank meeting.

But are city officials’ lives valuable for only a couple of hours on Tuesday night?

Both cities need to put long-term plans in place to protect city staff members and officials in the changing world.

A single metal detector turned on one night a week is more of a security blanket than security.

Burbank City Manager Mary Alvord is moving in the right direction on the security issue, and so are Glendale officials, who are also considering what measures to use — including metal detectors at their own meetings.

In devising their respective measures, leaders need to base their security plans on a consistent and fair philosophy of security for their public facilities and meeting places.

Alvord, Glendale City Manager Jim Starbird and their respective staffs need to decide who and what is being protected here; if it’s those on the dais every Tuesday between 6 p.m. and midnight; if it’s all those who work at City Hall or at certain public buildings; or if it’s all of the above.

Obviously that will cost something — the price we pay for the luxury of screening dangers. But if we agree that society has come to the point where a public meeting is not safe anymore, it seems worth the cost to pay for a well-devised plan in which all city meetings and public servants are safe.

It’s a double-edged sword, in a way.

On one hand, measures like detectors at City Council meetings are unsettling in a democracy, where a citizenry should pride itself on access to government.

On the other hand, decision makers need security to feel they can say what they need to say and where they can feel free to do what we elected them for without fear of being shot.

Clearly, as the events in Missouri showed us, there are those who would abuse to the most tragic degree the access we are so privileged to have, and which we have a right to.

That access, and the system that creates it, must be defended.

If that means metal detectors at council meetings, then so be it.

Let’s just make sure that they don’t simply give an illusion of security, that security plans are proportional to the threat, that they are based on a philosophy that embraces all of government while not restricting access to it.


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