It’s happened again. Like Parkland and Pulse and so many other tragic and painful mass shootings. We have collectively become far too experienced in what feels to be a nonstop wash-rinse-repeat cycle of shock, grief, anger, frustration and hopelessness. Still, we can’t just accept that this is the new normal, or allow the heartbreaking frequency of these moments to diminish their significance or our resolve to demand change.
But because we can’t wait for change, we must also demand preparedness. These incidents feel random – in Dayton in an entertainment district, in El Paso at a shopping complex, in Gilroy last week at a food festival. It feels like these tragedies could happen anywhere. That is why it’s critical that our community, a city that welcomes 15 million visitors annually, regularly hosts major events and is home to residents from every ethnic and religious group, do all we can to manage the unthinkable perils that sadly confront all of us.
To be clear, our City has one of the most professional and effective police departments in the nation. Our experience over decades of providing security to major events has given us substantial expertise most communities lack. We were one of the first cities in Florida to put trained police in our schools within weeks after Parkland. We continue to train and expand our Rescue Task Force concept into any critical incident where speed is of the essence. We have a highly successful Intelligence Unit that focuses on preemptive efforts to stop events before they happen. We continue to expand our community policing throughout our neighborhoods and with ongoing coordination with our religious institutions. And we are implementing high visibility watch details in our Entertainment District.
But more always needs to be done.
In the mid-1990’s I spent a few years running the U.S. Senate’s Investigations Committee – where my primary job was to lead a team of law enforcement agencies focused on highlighting weaknesses in our domestic counter-terrorism efforts and advocating solutions. I traveled all over the nation and elsewhere to study the emerging threat of domestic terrorism and made recommendations of what needed to be done. One major lesson I learned was the necessity to constantly push for greater communication and coordination among those responsible for managing and responding to these threats. Vigilance matters.
That is why I’ve consulted with our City Manager, Jimmy Morales, who is immediately meeting with our Police and Fire Chiefs and their senior staff to inventory and redouble our first responder efforts. While we may be first in class, we need to strive to be better.
We are also reaching out to our private sector partners in the business community – the Ocean Drive Association, the Lincoln Road Bid, the Hotel Association and others – to discuss and better coordinate private sector initiatives. While I am proud of our efforts to assist our religious institutions, we need to make sure we have implemented best practices everywhere – in every single church, synagogue, chabad and religious school.
Our G.O. Bond program committed $29 million to fund various initiatives relevant to this security mission (e.g. Police radios, cameras, license plate readers, enhanced lighting and bollards) and I’ve asked the G.O. Bond Oversight Committee to recommend to our Commission that all such efforts be moved into the first tranche of projects, if possible, so we see these benefits immediately.
Finally, I am convening a special City Commission meeting – some or all of which will be in Executive Session – to discuss many of these security initiatives and others that may be vital to a safer City. Notwithstanding the fact that the Florida Legislature has frustratingly preempted and essentially outlawed any local efforts at sensible gun regulation, there may still be measures available to us that at least help address this threat. I know my Commission colleagues fully share my concerns and are prepared to act decisively. I am grateful for their input and support.
I don’t want people to panic, and you shouldn’t. But it’s difficult to not think about our own community and our own loved ones when we see people just like us victimized by such random and senseless hate and violence. Our job, therefore, is to do what we can to diminish these threats so we can enjoy our quality of life in the community we love.
Our hearts go out to the victims, their families and the communities of Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton.