Millennium Library reopening next week with on-site police, metal detector ‘Interim security measures’ needed to ensure safety for staff, public: mayor
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The Millennium Library will fully reopen Monday with enhanced safety measures including police on the ground, more security staff and a metal detector, after closing last month in response to the slaying of a 28-year-old man.
The city says those “interim security measures” are needed to allow the library to provide services to the public once again.
“It’s our responsibility, as an employer, to make sure our staff are safe and feel safe,” Mayor Scott Gillingham said Wednesday.
”We also have an obligation, as a city, to make sure people that use the library feel safe, so these preliminary measures have been put in place so we can get the library open.”
After the building was shuttered following the Dec. 11 fatal stabbing, the city provided limited access for pick up and return of reserved materials, beginning Dec. 23. As well, the front entrance of the downtown community hub has been made available as a warming space for people without shelter.
Four teenage boys have been charged in Tyree Cayer’s death.
A controlled entrance will now include stanchions, a walk-through metal detector and an increased security presence.
“The walk-through metal detector will be in place for all visitors entering the branch. If a detector alarm activates after a visitor has removed all metal objects, metal detector wands will be used,” a city news release states.
”Verifying that no weapons are entering the facility is critical to ensuring the safety and well-being of staff and visitors.”
Two Winnipeg Police Service officers will be on site during the library’s operating hours, and four additional security guards will help staff the metal detector and patrol the building.
The city will also add one community-safety host, adding to an existing position. Those security staff are trained in trauma-related crisis work and can help connect vulnerable folks with resources.
The Downtown Community Safety Partnership’s front-line teams will conduct extra patrols around the building and temporarily use its former gift shop as a base.
The city’s chief administrative officer said the changes reflect feedback from library staff.
“Security guards can only do so much and, if there’s going to be an imminent threat that requires the powers of someone like a police officer, then we were hearing from some that (this police presence is) desired,” said Michael Jack.
The library will utilize officers through the special duty policing program, which contracts out WPS personnel to provide security at special events and stores, he said.
While some community activists have previously opposed these types of security measures and lobbied against adding police in city facilities, Jack urged all Winnipeggers to consider how recent threats have affected library staff and patrons.
“We have to treat the safety of employees and the safety of the library-using public as paramount. We are certain that we are never going to reach a plan that has unanimous support…. I would hypothetically ask anyone who is offering a critical voice how tolerant they would be of weapons within their workplace,” he said.
“I have yet to meet someone who is supportive of that type of situation in their own workplace and I would hope we can all try to have a bit of empathy for that reality.”
The city previously imposed controversial hand-held metal detector scans and bag searches at the library from 2019 to 2020. That triggered an intense backlash from some, who argued the measures violated privacy rights and created a barrier to using the facility.
The extra security was removed during pandemic closures.
“We have to treat the safety of employees and the safety of the library-using public as paramount. We are certain that we are never going to reach a plan that has unanimous support…. I would hypothetically ask anyone who is offering a critical voice how tolerant they would be of weapons within their workplace.”–Michael Jack, City of Winnipeg chief administrative officer
A member of the group Millennium For All, a key opponent to the airport-style screenings, deemed the return of such steps and an added police presence “very disappointing.”
“We know that this is an ineffective strategy…. What it’s effective at is pushing people away, particularly the people who need the library the most,” said Joe Curnow, arguing screening checkpoints tend to deter marginalized folks from entering facilities.
Curnow said investments to expand library services, including the addition of Millennium’s community connections space, go much further toward improving safety.
The city confirmed Wednesday that the community connections space, which helps connect vulnerable folks with housing, shelter, addictions, mental health and other services, will remain closed until further notice. Community crisis workers will be available at their offices on the library’s second floor.
“Now, they’re just pulling the rug out from everything that we know is effective. Keeping the community connections space closed…. All the investment in community that has been built is being… devastated in this moment. It’s really heartbreaking,” said Curnow.
The city says a comprehensive risk and security audit of the facility is now underway, which will help determine what final security measures should be. Jack said the interim steps will be in place until the city completes that process and determine its long-term security plan.
He said a preliminary report on the security audit is expected within “a few weeks.”
The head of the union that represents library workers said many staff have been deeply affected by the violent death inside the building.
“There’s still, without question, a lot of anxiety, which is to be expected,” said Gord Delbridge, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 500.
Delbridge noted staff did call for more security measures but he’ll meet with members to determine the impact of the specific changes being implemented.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.