County supervisors talk active-shooter preparedness

Security discussion held in wake of San Bernardino slayings

Whether Contra Costa County health and social service facilities have enough safeguards in place for potential active shooter situations was considered during a Board of Supervisors meeting in Martinez on Tuesday

According to the meeting's agenda, the discussion came in the wake of recent mass shootings, particularly one on Wednesday involving San Bernardino County Department of Public Health employees fatally shot in Southern California.

Mike Casten, undersheriff for the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office, expressed confidence in the county being able to respond to such incidents, given continuous efforts to ensure there's adequate preparation.

Casten pointed to a Nov. 21 active shooter training that involved a number of local agencies at Contra Costa Regional Medical Center in Martinez as part of that ongoing effort.

"We could have a command force set up at an event and be fully deployed in no longer than 30 minutes after it starts," he said.

Casten said the sheriff's office has "SWAT team and some military-type vehicles" at the ready. Hostage negotiators and other specialized teams are also on hand, he said.

But he acknowledged law enforcement agencies are put in a difficult spot in making these preparations.

"We have to be trained, have the right people and the right equipment to deal with unprecedented situations like active shooters and terrorism," he said, "while also still having the capacity to integrate with the community."

Supervisor John Gioia also commented on what he called a "fine balance" between having an "open and welcome county" and appropriate security.

Gioia questioned if one area of security efforts in county buildings could be improved on.

"If you go into Alameda County down in Oakland, most of their county functions are all in one building, which has security and metal detectors," he said.

"Our offices are spread out," he said. "And we have so many buildings, but which ones would be most appropriate to have that type of security?"

Contra Costa County Employment and Human Services director Kathy Gallagher and others recognized that many local health and social service facilities do not have metal detectors because of their size and location.

Gallagher said installing more as a security precaution has been debated, not only in light of recent incidents but also because of the threat of people angry with county service workers.

"But these do become an impediment to the work that we are doing," she said.

Gallagher also said that a metal detector, which often creates a queue of people as they wait to be screened, itself presents another risk when considering the assault weapons often used in these situations.

Although no action was taken Tuesday, some other ideas explored included expanding identification checks upon entering facilities, limiting the amount of entryways as well as enhancing awareness about how people should respond in these situations.

Supervisor Candace Andersen, and most of the other supervisors, emphasized that last point in particular.

"As much as we want to create fortresses, I don't see that as being necessary in most of our buildings," said Andersen, whose district includes the San Ramon Valley. "As horrible as it sounds, if someone wants to do us harm, a metal detector won't stop that."

She said what may help prevent an incident is "individuals, workers who see something that looks unusual and report it to authorities."

— Bay City News Service

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Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of Danville
on Dec 10, 2015 at 9:33 pm

When seconds count, the police are minutes away. The Sheriff's office says that: "We could have a command force set up at an event and be fully deployed in no longer than 30 minutes after it starts." A terrorist could kill a lot of unarmed people in that time. Maybe it's time to arm the honest, law-abiding, peaceful citizens so they have a fighting chance.

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