On December 9, 2015, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik (husband and wife) opened fire at a Christmas party at the Inland Regional Social Services Center in San Bernadino, California, killing 14 and injuring 22.
Coming on the heels of Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Fort Hood, New Town, Navy Beach, ad nauseum; a precursor of the atrocities in France and Belgium; and contemporaneous with the mass killings of peace officers across the U.S. including Fargo; law enforcement, as first responders, have become a target for every person with a grudge or agenda.
Sheriff Clay Coker sought to address that growing problem because of the number of local arrests where violence and the level of resistance appears to be growing exponentially even here in the oil patch. Last week, instructors Chris Holland (FBI special agent-retired) and Daryl Simmons (Senior Analyst, Naval Special Warfare Group, retired) conducted classes at the Manning Community Center.
Simmons’ said, “Whether it’s a foreign national with a bomb vest or it’s a disturbed man with a rifle in Fargo, North Dakota, if he/she is willing to kill or maim to further their agenda, that’s the classic definition of ‘terrorism’.” And, with the increasing level of violence being used against peace officers (just doing their job) and innocent bystanders on the street, SA Holland was emphatic, “It’s about saving innocent lives.” SA Merriman added that the increasing level of incivility has even affected his martial arts program, “I had to remove a 35-year ban that I placed on my Hanshi Board. The ban? Training civilians (including children) in the use of improvised weapons, concealment and cover, escape and evasion, and, frankly, the ugly, dark side of martial arts. I discussed it with my parents in our local program we have begun this training (including the parents) last year.”
Training in Manning included the mindset of a spree killer, how to seal and search the site of a mass incident, the role of first responders, small unit tactics, patrol rifle and sidearm proficiency, force-on-force aggressor tactics, IED’s, hostage scenarios and even included each of the 3 teams created by the instructors planning a robbery, hostage scenario and incident of mass destruction. Then, the teams brain-stormed as to how to detect, intercept, prevent, thwart, contain and neutralize each threat scenario. Sgt. Danielle Sigloh was very pleased, “We have such a large service area and small department that cross-training between all of the agencies is essential. There are so many new faces, we need to train in order to just know each other.” Sigloh’s comments were mirrored by Merriman, “so many investigations like the recent drug, weapons and explosives investigation outside Killdeer require the assistance of so many different agencies to keep everyone as safe as possible. And, in a pinch, we don’t want the good guys to be strangers who inadvertently hurt each other in the response.” Sigloh agreed, “SWAT can’t always be there to help, so, each officer needs to adopt this new training.”
The federal government agrees. On January 1st, in the wake of the Columbine shooting and these other atrocities, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), of which Sheriff Coker is a graduate, issued its new manual on dealing with these threats, which radically changed the way patrol officers interact with these lone wolves. McKenzie County Deputy Brandon Johnson said, “I know it sounds corny, but, I was taught that we are supposed to be the ‘capable guardians’ of the public. Sort of like being the tip of a spear when danger comes. If you’re supposed to be the tip of the spear, you need to be the sharpest.”
Merriman relates that an arson attempt (where a loaded weapon was also hidden outside) was thwarted by local authorities within the last 18 months, “It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when.” That sentiment was echoed by both instructors Holland and Simmons as well as all those in attendance, “It’s sad, but, it’s just plain logic. We just aren’t immune to this phenomenon, which is spreading across the country. The lack of respect for authority coupled with the selfishness, particularly, of a small minority of out-of-state workers who come here just to work, have no vested interest in our communities, are drug/alcohol addled and have very little in the way of self-control or problem solving.” DCSO Chief Deputy Matt Hegstad, himself a candidate for Killdeer City Commission next month, gave the example of the good relationship between the DCSO and Killdeer Police Dept. as an example of cross-cooperation, “So many of us live in Killdeer now,” six out of 14 deputies, “we are a force multiplier for Chief Braathen, particularly, when we are off duty and at home with our families. So, we all need to be trained to coordinate our response to crime so that we work together.” Hegstad continued, “Police work is not a 9-5 job, we are cops 24/7 and we want our hometown, particularly our kids, to be safe too. And, of course, no department can be everywhere all the time.”
Mr. Simmons, who has known our states attorney virtually his whole life, was lavish in his praise of the attendees, “Both Chris and I have been doing this a long time all across the globe. To see the level of commitment and cooperation between these officers is refreshing. Sometimes petty turf wars and budget considerations cause small departments to get caught flat-footed when a surprise occurs simply because they refuse to work together.” SA Holland echoed that sentiment, “Fargo hadn’t had an officer killed in what…100 years? Wow! It’s just sad to see the same problems we have been experiencing in the Midwest up here.” Holland relates that before he was a FBI agent he was a police officer back in the “dark ages” in Florissant—a city right next to Ferguson, Missouri, “I don’t know what happened down in Missouri and, it’s just sad to see it coming out here to North Dakota. Someone gets angry, they grab a rifle and a good kid, who was just doing his job, leaves his wife and kids in the beat of a heart.” Both Simmons and Holland have agreed to return if interest spreads, “It’s good, essential training.” Each attendee received 22 hours of POST credit, which is their requirement for one year.