HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– If you’re planning to attend any of the inauguration day events at the State Capitol Complex Wednesday, you better get there early. For the first time, getting into the Capitol is just like getting on an airplane at the airport.
For years, state government and the legislature resisted the calls to bring tougher security measures to the Capitol Complex, but it is now in place and Wednesday will be the first big test.
Over the past several months, airport-style screening of visitors to the State Capitol Complex has been phased in. It’s similar to courthouses and many other public buildings. Just like at the airport, no weapons of any kind are allowed. One man was sent away Tuesday because he had a small pen knife in his pocket. It doesn’t matter who you are, you are subject to search unless you are a state lawmaker, or legislative or state government staffer.
Opening day of the legislative session usually sees one of the largest crowds of the year, and this year there will be the added importance of the Governor’s inauguration for a second term. There are only two public entrances to the complex; one at the west entrance to the Legislative Office Building by the State Armory, and the West entrance to the State Capitol building itself.
“I’m afraid it’s going to be very difficult,” said State Sen. Joe Markley, R-Southington. “Security here does the best job they can, but to bring people through one by one like this when there’s hundreds of people, I can’t imagine how there’s not going to be a backup.”
Many others that do business at the State Capitol and Legislative Office Building everyday told us the same thing. The most frequent word we heard was “nightmare.”
The 30 member State Capitol Police force along with a small army of security-screeners, mostly former police officers, are tasked with making this all work Wednesday.
“We’re going to have all of our manpower out, the entire department will be here making it as speedy of a process for everybody as possible,” said State Capitol Police Department spokesman Officer Scott Driscoll.
It’s not just Inauguration Day that sees big crowds at the Capitol. Starting Thursday there are public hearings on many big issues, and sometimes hundreds of people turn out for them.
You’re going to have to bring your patience, and make sure you wear warm clothes Wednesday because some people are probably going to end up waiting outside.