City of Sarasota launches new security measure at Commission meetings

Sarasota City launches new seurity measures

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - The City of Sarasota is now officially enforcing a Florida law that prohibits firearms from any City Commission meeting.

Monday was the first day the security team screened well over 100 people who attended the regular commission meeting.

“Shots fired, shots fired, second floor," called Virginia Beach officers over their radios during a shooting just weeks ago at the Municipal Center that took the lives of 12 people.

It was one of the more recent deadly expressions of frustration, a shooting the city manager of Sarasota said he wants to stop from happening here.

“The tragedy replayed just too many times across America," said Tom Barwin. "For years and years, it just seemed like a media thing and it would never happen in your town, but that’s what everyone thinks.”

To step up security, Barwin consulted with Sarasota Police Chief DiPino before deciding everyone attending City Commission meetings would be screened. It’s in compliance with a state law that prohibits any weapons inside meetings of governing bodies.

Staff didn’t have the exact hourly rate of each officer on hand, but did confirm they will be at every meeting in the foreseeable future. These officers work for O.S.A Global, a company the City already contracted with for security at Van Wezel events.

“We would much rather be safe than ever regret that we didn’t take any of the reasonable precautions necessary,” said Barwin.

A comforting precaution to those who have seen firsthand how confrontational city meetings can get.

“Whenever there’s emotion, people do silly things, so I’m glad that someone decided to do this,” said John Gustin, a citizen of Sarasota.

But not everyone agrees this is money well spent.

“We’re not talking about a school building, this is a public building the people are entitled to come to," said another citizen, Martin Hyde. "Frankly, I don’t see why they should cue up like they would at an airport. This is not that kind of circumstance and I think it’s an outrageous waste of money.”

Still, it’s not up for discussion. City staff don’t yet have a permanent contract specifically for the Commission meetings, but did say residents can expect to be checked before any regular or special meeting or workshop.

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