March 12 2009 12:00 AM

Increased security at City Council one week after a violent disruption

One week after a man charged the dais at a City Council meeting, most Council members say they feel safe in City Hall.

Barry Shiffer was arrested after the Feb. 9 meeting, during which he kicked through the swinging gate that separates the public from the Council and threatened to "do business" with his AK-47, among other profanities. Shiffer was escorted out by police, but allegedly got into a scuffle with them as they tried to restrain him.

This week, there was a noticeable increase in security. Shiffer’s photo was posted above the security checkpoint near City Hall’s main entrance and the number of police in Council chambers was increased. In addition to the sergeant at arms the Police Department provides for each meeting, another uniformed officer was seated behind Finance Director Jerry Ambrose on the Council side of the chambers.

First Ward Councilman Eric Hewitt says that he feels safe and that the number of disruptions at Council meetings over the past few months has been small. He said hes more concerned about officers being taken off the streets to instead patrol Council meetings.

Second Ward Councilwoman Sandy Allen was absent from the Feb. 9 meeting, but says the police presence in City Hall makes her feel safe. She also mentioned that Council is discussing locking the gate that between to the dais to deter further outbursts.

Allen has a theory on why public comment has been the launching pad for some strange behavior this session.

"Tempers are high. This is a difficult climate right now, and people seem to be more stressed," she said.

Fourth Ward Councilman Tim Kaltenbach joked about the whole matter.

"Yes, I feel safe. Ive got Brian sitting next to me," Kaltenbach said, motioning to At-Large Councilman Brian Jeffries, seated to his left.

At-Large Councilwoman Carol Wood, Third Ward Councilwoman ALynne Robinson and Quinney all fell under the "yes, I feel safe" column in an informal poll conducted Monday night.

Only one Council member had a slightly different take: At-Large Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar, who last year penned an opinion piece for the Lansing State Journal about Council regulars in the wake of the Kirkwood, Mo., shootings.

“Ask me if I felt safe last week," she said. Dunbar answered her own question. "No, I didnt feel safe last week."

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