Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens assured Orange County supervisors today that her department has multiple programs to guard against a mass shooting such as last week’s rampage in San Bernardino.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Todd Spitzer said he had confidence in the county’s law enforcement agencies, but wanted the sheriff to tell the public what was being done to protect residents and businesses.
“I wish I could look you in the eye and say unequivocally that you have nothing to worry about,” Spitzer said. “But these are the best of the best and they will do everything they can to run into harm’s way to save us.”
Spitzer said the public has to consider themselves sort of “first responders” in the fight against terrorism.
“You couldn’t be more right about that,” Hutchens said, noting the importance of the public reporting suspicious activity to law enforcement.
Hutchens said there were about 4,200 “terrorist liaison officers throughout the county,” who have received additional training on how to “recognize terrorist activities.”
Hutchens added, “They know how to follow up a lead.”
Even before Hutchens became sheriff, the department had a “very robust program” on terrorism that “continues to grow,” she said.
Hutchens said there is a joint terrorism task force led by the FBI that works “side by side” with her department.
The deputies regularly run active-shooter drills and practice how to respond to “multiple simultaneous attacks,” Hutchens said.
For many years, deputies have been aware that one tactic of terrorists is to set off an emergency in one locale to draw all of the first responders and then conduct an attack elsewhere, Hutchens said.
Hutchens noted that the perpetrators of last week’s deadly attack had set up pipe bombs to go off on first responders, but that “fortunately they weren’t very good at setting off those pipe bombs.”
After last week’s attacks in San Bernardino, Hutchens boosted patrols in the county “to calm fears” and because, “we didn’t know if there would be any secondary attacks here.”
Sheriff’s deputies are also training county employees to “develop protocols to increase survivability” in the event of an attack and to “empower employees to know what to do in an active-shooter incident,” Hutchens said.
Spitzer said union leaders have pledged their “full support” in these efforts.
“I want to get their input,” Spitzer said of county employees. “They know the issues firsthand, and I believe they can be very insightful and helpful.”
— City News Service
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