Security boosted at council meetings after ‘aggression’
LISMORE City Council has adopted new security measures for council meetings and briefings "to ensure all community members can attend these meetings in a safe environment".
Lismore mayor Isaac Smith said the measures will start from tonight's briefing, and will include an increased number of security guards, security screening and notification to police of all meetings.
"Sadly, due to the way people don't respect process now, and get carried away by social media, we are finding that there is increased aggression within the gallery at meetings," he said.
"We really want to make sure that, in terms of workplace health and safety, visitors, residents, councillors and staff are all protected in that space."
Cr Smith said the council has been looking into measures of this kind for a while, and due to the fact that people's personal safety is a risk but also because of the impact on the council's ability to complete their work due to interruptions from the gallery.
"It's a mix of both ‒ unfortunately, due to social media and the lies that are propagated through that medium, we get a lot of people who come in with half an idea and have threatened staff, have threatened councillors and have threatened other members of the community, so we are having to take steps now in that forum to protect people," he explained.
"There are some real concerns now for people's wellbeing physically, emotionally and mentally.
"It's sad it's come to this but we live in a society where people no longer show respect or use common sense."
Mr Smith confirmed security personnel will be increased from one to "three or four" at tonight's council meeting, but the number may vary from briefings to meetings.
"At this stage we are starting it because there is a need, but I would like to hope it will not be needed in the future, but based on the way people speak of politics and political action, I'm afraid it may need to be permanent feature," he said.
The councillor said there is no cost estimated for the measure.
"We don't have an estimate on costs at the moment, my main concern is people's safety, and the safety of our staff and council."
The recording of meetings, including the use of audio recorder, video camera, mobile phone or any other device is not authorised under Council's Code of Meeting practice.