Tulsa World: Officials concerned for own safety

Jan 12, 2011
In The News

WASHINGTON – Members of the Oklahoma congressional delegation spoke Tuesday about balancing concerns over their own safety and remaining accessible to their constituents in the wake of what is being described as an assassination attempt on an Arizona congresswoman.

Republican Rep. John Sullivan, who already had taken certain security measures, said he plans to meet with local law enforcement and listen to their recommendations.

"We don’t want to wall ourselves off from our constituents,” Sullivan said.

He described town hall meetings such as the one that U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., was having last weekend when she was gunned down in Tucson as important to voters.

"They want to have access to their congressman and their congresswoman,” Sullivan said.

Democratic Rep. Dan Boren, who had coordinated with local law enforcement officials on public events during the heated debate over health care, said he already plans on holding more than 20 town hall meetings in a row, beginning in late January.

"You’ve got to be able to meet with your constituents, one-on-one,” Boren said.

Reading a letter, he said, is no substitute for personal contact.

Others voiced similar thoughts.

"While it would be inappropriate to discuss the security measures in detail, there is a fine balance between providing proper security and making sure my constituents have access to me and my staff,” Republican Rep. Frank Lucas said.

"I will continue to make safety my top priority and still maintain my outreach to constituents, whether at one of my 50 annual town hall meetings, at other events around the district or in D.C.”

Republican Rep. Tom Cole said: "We will certainly continue to take reasonable precautions, but we can’t allow this incident to hinder members’ ability to perform our duties or interact with constituents.”

Following the Arizona shootings, Boren said he thinks U.S. Capitol Police need to take a more vigorous look at threats against members of Congress.

"To me, they need to be proactive,” he said. "They need to monitor unstable people.”

Boren recalled a previous incident involving a person who called his office and then fired a gun.

"There was nothing that they did to the individual,” he said, explaining that, even with the information they had, authorities could not prove who actually made the call.

"There was nothing that they could do.”

Sullivan spoke of incidents several years ago at his residence in Tulsa, which had its front door shot at, possibly by someone with a BB gun, and was egged and a threat made against his local congressional office.

He said security measures were taken at his Tulsa office, and he has spoken to his family about precautions.

Sullivan and Boren recalled when individuals at public events drew the attention of local law enforcement.

Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel announced Tuesday that he has authorized creation of a new Dignitary Protection Unit following the assassination attempt in Tucson.

"Having uniformed law enforcement officers at a public speaking event by elected officials is an important safety measure,” Whetsel said.

"The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office has started the process of creating this special unit to work with dignitaries who request the service.”

Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz said Tuesday he has no plans to create a similar unit.

However, Glanz said, he will meet with Sullivan to discuss providing law enforcement protection for the congressman at local public events.

"We will assist with law enforcement functions, including the protection of our local elected officials," Glanz said.

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