Calif. town declares emergency in wake of attacks

Hemet to secure city buildings after threats to police

The Press Enterprise

HEMET, Calif. — Hemet will be able to speed up security improvements to the Police Department building and City Hall after the City Council on Tuesday declared that an emergency exists.

The resolution allows the city to bypass the cost-reducing but time-consuming bidding process. The measure comes after three attacks in Hemet on a regional anti-gang task force and the burning of three city code enforcement vehicles. Then Monday, a fire damaged a building at a Hemet police firing range, a blaze that has not immediately been linked to the other attacks.

"We need to get this done right away," Police Chief Richard Dana told the council as four television news cameras rolled. "Additionally, if we were to go out to a full bid on this process, it would require that we tell all of the security measures that we intend to put in place."

An emergency is defined under the state Public Contract Code as "a sudden, unexpected occurrence that poses a clear and imminent danger, requiring immediate action to prevent or mitigate the loss or impairment of life, health, property, or essential public services."

Police Capt. Dave Brown had written in a memo to the council that, "A security assessment of city buildings indicates that the public access lobbies present a significant risk to city employees and resources. Immediate action is required to harden these facilities."

The city has not publicly set a timeline for these improvements. A crew from Hemet Fence welded and painted a new security fence Tuesday in the police parking lot. The city has received grants to install bullet-proof glass in the police lobby and a glass-protected counter at City Hall.

Once a company is hired, the state code requires the City Council to review the status of the emergency at every regular meeting. It can be renewed if four of the five council members approve it.

Also Tuesday, the council put off voting on a policy that would have prohibited those delivering invocations at council meetings from mentioning the names of specific deities. City Manager Brian Nakamura and City Attorney Eric Vail said they wanted to consult the members of the Hemet-San Jacinto Interfaith Council, some of whom objected to the policy that was written out of fear of litigation by civil rights activists.

Copyright 2010 Press Enterprise

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