Police concerned about order to stop weapons screening at Obama rally
By JACK DOUGLAS Jr.
Star-Telegram Staff Writer
DALLAS -- Security details at Barack Obama's rally Wednesday stopped screening people for weapons at the front gates more than an hour before the Democratic presidential candidate took the stage at Reunion Arena.
The order to put down the metal detectors and stop checking purses and laptop bags came as a surprise to several Dallas police officers who said they believed it was a lapse in security.
Dallas Deputy Police Chief T.W. Lawrence, head of the Police Department's homeland security and special operations divisions, said the order -- apparently made by the U.S. Secret Service -- was meant to speed up the long lines outside and fill the arena's vacant seats before Obama came on.
"Sure," said Lawrence, when asked if he was concerned by the great number of people who had gotten into the building without being checked. But, he added, the turnout of more than 17,000 people seemed to be a "friendly crowd."
The Secret Service did not return a call from the Star-Telegram seeking comment.
Doors opened to the public at 10 a.m., and for the first hour security officers scanned each person who came in and checked their belongings in a process that kept movement of the long lines at a crawl. Then, about 11 a.m., an order came down to allow the people in without being checked. more
the secret service said things went the way it was supposed to:
By JACK DOUGLAS Jr.
FORT WORTH -- The U.S. Secret Service on Friday defended its handling of security during a massive rally in downtown Dallas for Barack Obama, saying there was no "lapse" in its "comprehensive and layered security plan," which called for some people to be checked for weapons, while others were not.
A report in the Star-Telegram that said some security measures were lifted during Wednesday's rally sparked a public outrage across the country, with most people saying they were shocked that a routine weapons search was lifted at the front gates of Reunion Arena an hour before the Democratic presidential candidate took the stage.
"This relaxed security was unbelievably stupid, especially in Dallas," Jeff Adams of Berkeley, Calif., said in an e-mail to the Star-Telegram, noting the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas more than four decades ago.
Others said they had recently attended large political events, many for Obama, where security screening was halted. Jeremy Dibbell of Boston said in an e-mail that he attended an Obama event in Boston at which "the same thing happened there. We waited for hours in line as people were screened, and then suddenly everyone was just allowed in without going through any inspection at all."
Nick Shapiro, a spokesman for Obama in Texas, said the campaign would have no comment on whether there was a security breech in Dallas. Shapiro referred questions to the Secret Service.
"There were no security lapses at that venue," said Eric Zahren, a spokesman for the Secret Service. more.