As the nation ponders what to do about protecting congressmen and other officials in the wake of the Saturday shooting rampage in Tucson that left Rep. Gabrielle Giffords fighting for her life, security protection for at least some public appearances by political leaders is nothing new here in Evanston.

A police officer watches Sept. 1 as city officials give Rep. Schakowsky, third from left, a tour of Evanston’s west side.

When U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky toured the 5th Ward neighborhood that’s targeted for a federal housing grant last Sept. 1, several Evanston police officers were on the scene.

The same sort of security was provided when Schakowsky was joined by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin for a tour of the same neighborhood in February.

Police are also out in force for many public events in Fountain Square downtown, ranging from the holiday tree lighting to veterans day observances. And Police Chief Richard Eddington is frequently present for City Council meetings — though perhaps as much to answer budget and other questions from aldermen as to provide protection.

As Schakowsky noted in interviews over the weekend, members of Congress don’t get protection from the U.S. Capitol Police or other federal agencies when they’re back in their districts.

The New York Times reported Sunday that, with 535 members, the cost of individual protection for senators and representatives is considered prohibitive.

But some lawmakers are suggesting that the presence of a local police officer at public events can help keep people under control, and capitol police are suggesting that members of Congress should touch base with local police and name a staff member to be a liaison with them to discuss security needs at community meetings.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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