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State House security will include state troopers; FBI warns of armed protests

MONTGOMERY — State troopers from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency will be the main security force at the Alabama Statehouse during the upcoming legislative session.

The news comes as the FBI warns of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals and in Washington, D.C., in the days leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, although the security change in Alabama was in process before that warning, officials said.

An internal FBI bulletin warned, as of Sunday, that the nationwide protests may start later this week and extend through Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration, according to two law enforcement officials who read details of the memo to The Associated Press. Investigators believe some of the people are members of extremist groups, the officials said. The bulletin was first reported by ABC.

Senate Secretary Pat Harris on Monday said an agreement with ALEA is in the works to replace the private security company that has been used at the Statehouse for the last several years. A meeting on the subject was scheduled for Monday afternoon.

“We’re working with ALEA to replace the private contract with an agreement with ALEA, who will still be responsible to the House and Senate, but we will have uniformed troopers at the doors,” Harris said.

The troopers will likely be in place near the beginning of the session which starts Feb. 2, Harris said.

The entrances to the Statehouse on the first and second floors are typically guarded by private security officers and visitors who enter must pass through a metal detector and sign a ledger.

The troopers will be able to make arrests, whereas the private contractors could not, providing better safety and security at the Statehouse, said Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range.

“The perception is that you’ve got a professional with a Smokey the Bear hat and then you’ve got, and I don’t mean this in a derogatory way, the appearance of a rent-a-cop,” Albritton said.

The change has been in development since the fall and is not a result of the violent mob seen at the U.S. Capitol last week, Albritton said.

The House and Senate each have their own security guards that regulate access to the floors, chambers and committee meetings within the Statehouse, but do not control access to the building. They will remain in place.

Albritton doesn’t know the exact cost of adding state troopers but estimated that it will increase by several hundred thousand dollars the amount the Statehouse already pays for its security.

In fiscal 2020, the Legislature paid DSI Security almost $202,700, according to state spending records. The company was paid nearly $221,000 in fiscal 2019.

Various state capitols across the nation are stepping up their security measures and even deploying National Guard units amid safety concerns following last week’s violent attacks at the U.S. Capitol, the Associated Press reported.

“ALEA in conjunction with local law enforcement continue to work together to provide overall safety and security to all state buildings within the Capitol complex,” said Robyn Bryan, ALEA media relations manager, when asked about the possible need for more security.

Harris said he is not currently concerned about violent protestors marching on the Statehouse, but said if extra security is needed, they would be able to get help from ALEA easily.

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