There's a new presence these days at the New Hope City Council table — the chief of police, who sits with the council during meetings and keeps an eye on the door. Another officer is posted outside.
But as the people of New Hope know very well, no security measure can truly guarantee safety in a public building. After all, there were 20 armed officers in the City Hall lobby on Jan. 26, when Raymond Kmetz burst in and wounded two police officers at a swearing-in ceremony before he was killed by return fire.
"Total security is just about impossible because it's a public building," said New Hope Mayor Kathi Hemken. "Having a bunch of police officers, does that stop a guy from coming in the building? Obviously not."
That hasn't stopped police and city leaders across the metro area from taking a hard look at security in the wake of the shooting.
"If a city isn't looking at it now, there's something wrong," said Tom Ryan, mayor of Blaine for 21 years. Ryan recently changed the location of his public office hours from a remote upstairs room to one downstairs near the police station. Like New Hope, Blaine has added a uniformed police officer at council meetings.
"And the officer sits in front and faces out, so he can watch things," Ryan said.
Other cities have reviewed their long-standing security procedures and concluded that no immediate changes are needed.
"Obviously, what happened in New Hope is very concerning," said Maple Grove Police Chief Eric Werner. "It gives you a chance to review and reflect on your own procedures.
"We have not changed much in regard to our procedures. We've got a good balance between maintaining the open government we have here, and maintaining safety and security."
Still, a police sergeant appeared at a Maple Grove City Council meeting this month and gave the council an update on security. Al Madsen, city administrator, mentioned that the council's dais is fortified, and that the building has cameras and panic alarms. But like other city officials, he was reluctant to give specifics on security procedures.
"We don't want to give the bad guys too much of a heads-up," he said.
Minnesotans are accustomed to seeing "No guns allowed" signs posted at building entrances. But with few exceptions, only private businesses have the right to ban guns. Under state law, the only public buildings where guns are banned are schools, courthouses and a few buildings in the "Capitol area." That means cities can't ban guns in their own buildings.
"That's beyond common sense," said Leonard Matarese, director of research and project development at the Center for Public Safety Management in Washington, D.C. Matarese provides security advice and education to more than 9,000 town, city and county members of the International City/County Management Association.
Matarese said there are no quick fixes for security in public buildings. Metal detectors are expensive and have a high error rate when used by inexperienced people, he said. They also have to be recalibrated frequently.
Matarese was a career law enforcement officer and also has served as a city manager and public safety director. It's an inescapable fact, he said, that access to guns adds to the security risks in public buildings.
"Part of the reality is that there are a large number of weapons in the hands of people," he said. "And as a society, we have differing opinions on whether that is a good or bad idea. But it is part of the equation."
'We have to fix us'
The advice on reacting to a shooting incident has changed in recent years, said Stacy Carlson, Golden Valley chief of police.
"It used to be, get down under your desk and hope they don't find you," Carlson said. "Now the prevailing theory is, get out of the building. If you can't get out, then hide. And last resort, fight for your life. We call it 'Run, hide, fight.' "
Carlson said Golden Valley city employees and council members have been trained in that method by police.
"You can't fall back on, 'We have a sweet town, and nothing's going to happen here,' " she said. Golden Valley has also added a uniformed officer at its council meetings since the New Hope incident.
In New Hope, the attitude of Mayor Hemken and other city officials is summed up by the exhortation to battle-scarred British civilians in World War II: "Keep Calm and Carry On." Hemken said the best security is simply looking out for one another.
"We can't let this incident define who we are," she said. "We can't move our council meetings to a different spot. So we have to fix us — our mind-set. Because we're not going to fix the rest of the world. Bad things will still happen.
"The way we're operating today is pretty much the way we operated a month ago," she said. "If we're scared, we can't logically carry on the city's business." Immediately after the shooting, she said, "there was a calmness there. And it was because everyone was watching out for everyone else. And it was really very powerful."
Hemken said she can't demonize Kmetz, the 68-year-old shooter, who was convinced that government and other agencies were conspiring against him.
"We need to remember that this person, though he was mentally disturbed, was somebody's father. Somebody's son," she said. "We need to remember that somebody died."
But she wishes he hadn't been able to get his hands on a gun.
"He had been in City Hall numerous times," Hemken said. "And we'd talk to him, and get him calmed down, get him back to center. Sometimes he'd leave in a cheery mood. Had this guy not had access to a gun, this would not have happened.
"This man was not a stranger to us. But the man with a gun was a stranger."