OLYMPIA — The Washington State Patrol has spent at least $1.5 million over the past two weeks in costs related to security at the state Capitol, and that number is expected to climb, officials said Wednesday.
At a news conference following the inauguration of President Joe Biden, Patrol spokesman Chris Loftis said that the cost does not include the temporary fencing that was erected outside of the Capitol and some surrounding legislative buildings, nor the costs incurred by the activation of 750 members of the National Guard, or security enhancements done by the state’s Department of Enterprise Services.
Loftis said that of the $1.5 million spent in the time since the raid on the U.S. Capitol and the breach of a fence surrounding Gov. Jay Inslee’s executive residence next to the state Capitol building, more than $1 million was paid in overtime alone. He wouldn’t say how many patrol members were working the security detail, other than to say the number was in the hundreds.
Inslee activated up to 750 guard members ahead of the Jan. 11 start of the legislative session amid security concerns at statehouses across the country.
Patrol Sgt. Darren Wright said there have been no incidents at the Capitol over the last few days. Other than a few dozen protesters at the Capitol on the first day of session, the campus has been quiet.
“We do think that our security posture over the last week has contributed to that success,” he said. “We were charged with the mission of protecting the campus grounds and to make sure that the democratic process goes on uninterrupted, and we feel that we have been successful up to this point.”
Capitol campus buildings are closed to the public because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Loftis said the costs don’t include projections for security in the coming days, and he said there are currently meetings on how much longer the enhanced security will remain in place.
“We are all hopeful that if we have a calm day today that we will be able to see a gradual draw down over the next few days,” he said.
Loftis said that while some may question the costs of the security detail, that expanded presence kept the peace.
“How much money would we as a country be willing to spend to go back to Jan. 6 and take the assault on our nation’s Capitol out of our history books?” he asked.
Tara Lee, a spokeswoman for Gov. Jay Inslee, said in an email that it “was not an option for us not to mobilize this level of response.”
“These security enhancements were necessary to protect the Capitol campus, all the people who work here and the historic working buildings,” Lee wrote.
Loftis said that moving forward, there is likely to be a more permanent change to security at the Capitol.
“We are in a new security environment in our state and in our country,” he said. “I think you will see substantive changes in the way that we conduct our legislative and judicial business.
But he cited an ongoing commitment to First Amendment rights.
“We will find a way to get as much access as possible to every citizen, every member of the public who wants to come and speak their peace,” he said. “We just have to make sure that that process is safe for the people, the place and the process.”