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Missouri Sends National Guard Troops To D.C. For Inauguration, Increases Security At State Capitol

Caleb Codding for St. Louis Public Radio

With threats of armed protests at all 50 state capitols following the insurrection in Washington, the Missouri statehouse is also seeing increased security.

Capitol Police has a 34-unit security team, but since pro-Trump extremists attacked the U.S. Capitol, they’ve requested additional help. In an email sent to Senate staff, Capitol Police said additional officers from “the Highway Patrol, Department of Natural Resources and other agencies throughout the coming weeks” will be in the building.

What’s most concerning to some legislators is that the Capitol has no formal alert system for riots or for health- or weather-related emergencies.

“No one in here even knows that we used to have one,” said Rep. Ron Hicks, R-Dardenne Prairie,

Hicks said there was a text alert system that would notify lawmakers and staff of emergencies in the building, but he said he doesn’t believe that system is being used now.

Hicks also recalled “about a year ago” when the fire alarm went off in the Statehouse. He said it was “a little chaotic because no one knew what to do. No one even knew what the sound was.”

Rep. Keri Ingle, D-Lee’s Summit, said law enforcement officials have said those in the Capitol are under increased threat, and they do not see that ending in the near future.

“Emergency preparation is what saves lives, and we are finding that we are not prepared, and that is terrifying,” said Ingle.

House members met with Capitol security recently, and there have been additional precautions taken in the statehouse, such as limiting entrances and planning escape routes.

Gov. Mike Parson is set to deliver his State of the State address on Jan. 27, which will bring in additional security, possibly officers in riot gear as seen during the recent inauguration. But lawmakers say they want to ensure the safety of those in the Capitol when the governor is not in the building.

“This is not a Republican nor a Democrat issue,” Hicks said. “I don’t know if this is the only thing we might work together on all year, but if it is I can tell you it’s the one thing that will save lives.”

While Parson has not deployed additional National Guard troops throughout the state as a precautionary measure, he has sent additional help to Washington, D.C.

According to an email sent by Parson’s spokesperson, “the Missouri National Guard is providing assistance to the D.C. National Guard, where they will support civilian law enforcement agencies with security, communications, medical evacuation, logistics, and safety to district and federal agencies through the presidential inauguration.”

Copyright 2021 St. Louis Public Radio

Jaclyn Driscoll is the Jefferson City statehouse reporter for St. Louis Public Radio. She joined the politics team in 2019 after spending two years at the Springfield, Illinois NPR affiliate. Jaclyn covered a variety of issues at the statehouse for all of Illinois' public radio stations, but focused primarily on public health and agriculture related policy. Before joining public radio, Jaclyn reported for a couple television stations in Illinois and Iowa as a general assignment reporter.