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Sheriffs Discuss Terrorism Response At National Conference

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Sheriffs from across the country are talking about how to deal with terrorism at the 2016 National Sheriff's Association Annual Conference.

Law enforcement from cities hit hard by homegrown terrorists spoke about what it will take to stay one step ahead of violent extremists inspired by foreign terror groups. Minneapolis is home to one of the nation's top experts on terrorism.

"What happens when there's an incident and how do you respond? The response is already too late," Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said.

Sheriff Stanek says he learned how to deal with home grown extremists when Minneapolis was thrust into the spotlight in 2007, after more than 20 men left to fight for Al-Shabaab in the horn of Africa.

"We went to work back here in our community, with community engagement and how to reduce violent extremism, how to reach out to the youth and bring them into the community -- the police-community relationship," Stanek said. "And from there, we were the only ones in the country that were doing it."

Stanek says community policing helps deal with extremists on the front end. He says it establishes relationships that build trust in the community. He wants to avoid a situation like Orlando, where a self-radicalized extremist lashed out on U.S. soil.

"Local law enforcement has to be on guard every single day, and we have to get it right every single day," he said. "Because of all the ones we prevent, it only takes one."

Stanek says reporting suspicious activity is key: See something, say something. Stanek says talking to law enforcement about suspicious activity can prevent acts of violence.

"Our success here is prepare, train, exercise incessantly," he said, "hoping that these bad things never happen, but knowing full well that we are vulnerable. And if it happens -- and we do everything we can to prevent it -- and if prevention doesn't work, then we need to be on our game."

Those attending this year's conference heard first responders from San Bernardino as well as from FBI director James Comey.


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