Added security proposed for Tucson mayor, City Hall

Chief wants guards, TPD officer, citing unspecified incidents
2013-02-15T00:00:00Z 2013-02-15T15:11:51Z Added security proposed for Tucson mayor, City HallDarren DaRonco Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 15, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The city is looking to beef up security for Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and City Hall within the next few weeks.

A plan in the works will provide the mayor with a uniformed officer to accompany him to appearances, and visitors to City Hall will begin seeing new security measures.

In a memo discussing the plans, Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor attributed the change to some recent, unspecified events that forced a closer look at how to increase security at City Hall and for the mayor while not making it "an overly restricted atmosphere" for city employees.

Villaseñor said his department has been studying the issue for months.

The chief recommended that two private security guards and one commissioned Tucson Police Department officer be placed at City Hall to provide additional security for the building and the mayor.

The city has had a private security guard roaming the lobby of City Hall for years. Five months ago, a uniformed TPD officer was added to the mix in response to threats from a disgruntled former employee.

But that position, which was considered a temporary special assignment, is being filled by officers working overtime.

The new plan makes the officer a regular member of the security team and adds an extra security guard to provide a higher level of security at City Hall, Villaseñor said.

How people come and go from City Hall will also change.

Currently, employees and visitors alike walk freely past the front desk on their way to various city offices.

Villaseñor said the employees have "been vetted and they should be able to get in here without obstruction."

The greater concern, he said, is "people that come to City Hall and they don't have a daily purpose here. We want to make sure they're safe while we due our due diligence to make sure nobody gets in with an ulterior motive."

When the change happens, possibly next month, the two security guards will begin to track visitors to City Hall by having them sign in and then monitoring their whereabouts. The officer will provide "law enforcement support" when necessary.

The officer will also accompany Rothschild to his appointments and appearances.

Rothschild said that while he wasn't at liberty to discuss any specific incident, a number of things over the past few months led to this conclusion.

"There have been things that happened at City Hall that have alerted people to the need for some security," Rothschild said.

How long the security upgrade lasts depends on whether the city can find money to pay for it. Villaseñor stressed in his memo that TPD doesn't currently have the money for anything permanent.

If it is to become a part of any long-term plan, he wrote, the city will have to add funds to cover it.

TPD isn't certain how much it would cost. Sgt. Maria Hawke, a TPD spokeswoman, said that is one of the things being studied.

Hawke said TPD has been looking at similar-sized cities across the nation to see what level of security they provide for their elected officials. What they've found has been a mixed bag.

While mayoral security is becoming more common for large cities, Villaseñor wrote, "the level of involvement is quite varied."

The Star contacted a few cities comparable in size or demographics to get an idea what they offer their mayors for security.

In Arizona, Mesa and Tempe do not provide security details for their mayors. The Phoenix Police Department does provide security for Mayor Greg Stanton, but mayoral spokeswoman Sarah Muench didn't have details on how many officers were assigned or what it costs.

Pima County doesn't assign security for its Board of Supervisors, judges or any other elected official.

Maricopa County's Board of Supervisors also does not receive any additional security even though Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox was shot in the pelvis after a board meeting in 1997.

Albuquerque assigns an officer to its mayor, rotating three officers to provide full coverage, said Dana Gardner, Albuquerque's director of communications.

Colorado Springs, Colo., offers part-time security to its mayor. Denise Hoover, administrative technician in the mayor's office, said a police officer accompanies the mayor to various functions, but there isn't a full-time security detail assigned solely to him.

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Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or On Twitter @DarrenDaRonco.

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