A Capitol Idea

Barriers and bollards secure California’s state building

California’s historic State Capitol building, completed in Sacramento in 1874, has seen its share of serious security episodes during its colorful existence. In 1927, a lobbyist shot and murdered a secretary on the fourth floor. In 1967, the capitol was occupied by armed Black Panthers, and a gunman once took a hostage in its bill room. A female follower of Charles Manson attempted to assassinate then-President Gerald Ford on its east steps. And, a mentally unstable man with a rifle once drove into the capitol’s basement parking lot, demanding to see the governor.

For most of this four-story capitol’s early history, it was protected by a granite and cast-iron fence. However, the fence was removed during extensive renovations in 1949 and the capitol building became a symbol of a freely accessible and open government.

Events Change Things

Following the Oklahoma City federal building bombing in 1995, legislators began to discuss, in earnest, erecting a security fence around California’s capitol building. Whatever misgivings state legislators may have had about the lack of security were soon overshadowed by political concerns.

However, the security mood in Sacramento changed again in 2001, when a suicidal trucker crashed into the south entrance of the capitol in January. Afterwards, all resistance to a security fence faded after the attacks of 9/11 later that same year. Every one of the country’s 50 state capitals responded to Sept. 11, 2001 by adding security measures to their statehouses.

Nobody had to convince the man in charge of security at California’s Capitol of the need for a security fence. Chief Sergeant-at-Arms Tony Beard had been quietly lobbying for such a solution for decades.

Beard, whose father and grandfather both spent most of their working lives helping to secure the state capitol, first worked in special services for the Senate at age 17. At 29, he was the youngest person ever elected Senate chief and now supervises a staff of more than 100 people, including 16 sworn officers.

Needless to say, Beard was thrilled to oversee a $6.8 million security overhaul of the capitol’s perimeter, which consists of a series of three-foot-tall concrete planters and security posts, and retractable bollards that are linked by inch-thick cable.

Perimeter Security Enhanced Aesthetically

The planter barriers and bollards are designed to complement both the capitol architecture and lush landscaping. In addition, decorative security bollards, which are normally kept in the “up” position and lowered to let authorized vehicles through, are placed in high traffic areas. They sport the state seal on top.

The decorative bollard protecting the capitol is Delta Scientific’s highest crash rated bollard, the DSC720. It will stop and destroy a 15,000-pound vehicle going 50 mph. It is the same bollard that protects federal and DOD facilities, U.S. and British embassies, and other high profile, high-risk locales. They meet or exceed Department of State and Department of Defense certifications, having been tested to the highest standards for repelling terrorist attacks.

“Fortunately, we didn’t have to choose between security and aesthetics,” Beard said. “The Delta barriers and bollards we have chosen to protect the capitol’s perimeter are designed to blend in with their surroundings. But they’re also designed to do the job, which means stopping a truck dead in its tracks.”

Delta’s bollard systems operate individually or in groups of up to ten. Individual bollards are up to 13.25 inches in diameter, up to 35 inches high and are usually mounted on 3-foot centers. Hydraulic and pneumatic versions can be operated by a variety of control systems. Manual versions are counter balanced and lock in the up or down position.

For Beard, Delta’s bollards mean he doesn’t have to choose between preserving the capitol building’s stately, historic beauty, and protecting it from those who would do it harm.

“I believe this is a win-win situation for everyone involved,” said Beard. “It’s a balance between preserving the historical aspects of the building—and all that it symbolizes—and on a more practical level, protecting the people who actually work and visit the capitol on a day-to-day basis.”

This article originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of Security Today.

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